According to various media reports, Sharks coach John Plumtree seems to have made up his mind about the captaincy of his team for the remainder of the Currie cup. Stefan Terblanche will look to extend his unbeaten run by four more games as the Sharks work on retaining the trophy they won in emphatic style in 2008.
Plumtree is quick to emphasise, though, that the Sharks have yet to accomplish anything and that being in pole position towards the end of the league phase means absolutely nothing if it doesn’t help you win the trophy. Retaining the Currie Cup is the ultimate prize, but the Sharks have identified four key steps, the first of which will take place this weekend.
Step one involves beating the Lions this weekend. That will secure at least a home semifinal. There’s a subtext, of course, in that a bonus point win will be required to keep the chasing Western Province in second place. Province will rack up five points against Boland this weekend and if a team like the Lions can put almost 90 points past the Wellington men, you have to back Province to add at least another fifty to their goal difference. The Sharks inability to run up a big differential against the Leopards last week has put pressure on them to retain top spot – they’ll need to win outright on log points, rather than banking on points difference.
The fact is, though, that the cart should not be put before the horse. The first priority is to win against the Lions because should they fail, they can kiss second place goodbye as well, with the Bulls sure to catch up. As Plumtree points out, the Sharks are now playing the brand of attacking rugby that should yield bonus points as a natural by-product anyway. There will be a renewed emphasis on forward play in general – and scrumming in particular – to provide better ball for the burgeoning Pienaar-Hernandez partnership to exploit.
Whatever the result on Saturday – bonus point or no – the Sharks will head to Kimberly the following week to tackle step two, a first place finish. Although a bonus-point win against the Lions will help, it will by no means cement top spot. The Sharks will need to bring back the full house from Kimberley as well in order to do that.
Steps three and four are pretty self-explanatory. Win the semi. Win the final. Nothing more, nothing less.
The Sharks are likely to go into Saturday’s game with a virtually full-strength side, with the exception of Jean Deysel, who is again likely to sit out for Mike Rhodes, who impressed against the Leopards. Riaan Swanepoel and Johann Muller are further doubtful starters and will need to undergo fitness tests later in the week. John Smit, Beast Mtawarira, JP Pietersen and Odwa Ndungane should all be sure starters against the Lions, though.Tweet