John Plumtree has a few difficult choices to make this week, as he has to try put a balanced team together that can challenge the Bulls and in the same breath keep some sort of continuity. Here are some of his selection conundrums:
2. Bismarck v Burden – Burden has been one of the greatest hookers in the competition this year, and showed the Bulls how it’s done the last time they met in Durban. Burden could be very handy in the looser game and with the Bulls front row not quite a strong, Burden could be the initiator of good play. Bismarck is strong and can run a mile, but Bissie takes a while to find his feet after a break. Plums likely pick: Bismarck. My pick: Burden.
3. Jannie v van Staden – van Staden must be the find of the season for the Sharks, in the front row at least if you want to give that award to Lambie. He has shown that he a strong scrummager and loves hitting the rucks hard. Jannie on the other hand, has shown good form in the last couple of games. Jannie is a bit more penalty prone, but the experience in a big match counts. Plums likely pick: Jannie du Plessis.
4 & 5. Sykes v Mostert v Hargreaves – In the lock department we are a clear second in comparison to the Bulls, so we have to choose them to suit out game plan and use them as such. We need two big strong boys to get the scrum moving forward, yet still have locks that can secure us lineout ball. Mostert has been growing in confidence since coming back, and is a big strong carrier of the ball like Alberts. I would certainly have Mostert in my starting lineup, but who do you drop to the bench? Hargreaves has not been in the best form of his life, and Sykes does do more on the hard graft, so that sways my decision. Plums likely pick: Sykes and Hargreaves. My pick: Sykes and Mostert.
6 & 8. Botes v Daniel v Kankowski – Let’s be honest, there is no doubt that if fit, Willem Alberts will be wearing the 7 jersey, so lets look at the other two loose forward positions. Daniel is the in form player of the 3, and in my opinion, cannot be left out of the team. He turns matches out of nowhere and has shown to be a good leader, and we need all the leadership we can get come semi time. Botes is the work horse, and you can see the difference in the team dynamic if he is not there. Kanko is a brilliant player, but as he has shown lately, is not in the best of form. In my opinion, you can only play one of either Kankowski or Daniel, as both are quite similar players and you nee a work horse and an Alberts. Plums like pick: Daniel, Alberts, Kankowski. My pick: Botes, Alberts, Daniel.
9. McLeod v Kockott – The slow loopy pass v the quick service. It’s simple really, Kockott to sit on the bench, McLeod to start. Plums likely pick: McLeod.
10. Lambie v Pretorius – Pretorius was tried at flyhalf in a big match, and it just did not work, he was too far back in the pocket and the backline was ineffective as a result. But do you blame him or the ball he got from Kockott? Lambie is the answer for the Sharks at 10, and that should not be messed with. His kicking has improved, and he has the ability to light up our otherwise dull backline. Plums likely pick: Lambie.
11 & 14. Pietersen v Mvovo v Ndungane v Terblanche – You will note that I put Oom Stef in the mix with the wings, just as he can play there and its an option. If Pietersen is fit, he should play. It’s a no brainer. The guy can run fast, tackle, run faster and is generally full of energy. The choice then comes down to Mvovo and Ndungane, and even though Mvovo has been a great find and is in try scoring form, Ndungane’s work rate far exceeds Mvovo’s. If I could rule the roost, I would have Pietersen and Terblanche as my wings as both are experienced and good under the high ball that is known as Morne Steyn’s boot. Plums likely pick: Pietersen and Mvovo.
12 & 13. Terblanche v Strauss v Swanepoel v Jacobs – As captain, Stefan should be in the backline somewhere. I would not put him as fullback, as Ludik is super at the back. And with the wings sewn up in Plum’s eyes, that leaves Stef with the 13 jersey. Strauss is immense on defence, and deserves to be in this team based purely on that fact. But Adi is back, and with a point to prove, and after what I saw on Saturday, should make life interesting for the Bulls. He will be raring to go, but is probably still not quite match fit. Plum is likely to stick Adi on the bench and go with Strauss and Terblanche. I would have Terblanche on the wing and start with Strauss and Adi.
15. Ludik v Ludik – Ludik. Easy game.
Plum’s likely team:
My team (for what it’s worth):