I had the honour of going to the press conference that was held at the Royal Marang Hotel, close to the Royal Bafokeng Stadium. In this press conference were John Plumtree, Stefan Terblanche and Jacques Botes.
Firstly all 3 guys came in smiling and introduced themselves – not that they need any introduction at all! But anyway, they were friendly enough to do it.
The first question was for Plum, about his (and the team’s) goals for the season and specifically the Super Rugby competition. He responded, “I think I have as good a squad as any in this competition – and I think they are good enough to win this competition”.
When it came round to me, I asked Plum if he’s happy with his depth at loose forward, particularly considering with Jean Deysel is already missing the first couple of weeks. He said, “I’m happy with the five players I’ve got”, but he admitted that it would be a problem if someone else was also to get injured.
I also asked Plum what his view is on rotation and how he thinks it will affect the continuity of the team – what with the tournament being so long now. He answered that he will definitely rotate his team and he thinks it won’t affect the continuity of the players, because the core of the team has been together long enough. “I feel I’ve got a fair few combinations that should work fine,” he says, “but it’s a tough one, because if the team suddenly loses and you’ve made so many changes the coach is always the one being blamed!” He added that we should be fine even if we make five changes in the team.
Plum was asked what we can expect the teams to look like for the Neo Africa Tri Series next week and he said we can expect to see about 25 players playing per game. In other words, expect a lot of rotating and seeing what the players form is like. He was also asked if his friendship with Lions coach John Mitchell had anything to with the Lions taking the place of the Western Force in this year’s competition. He just laughed and said, “No, I didn’t have anything to do with that! The Force couldn’t come, so the Lions joined up.”
Then I asked Stefan the million dollar question; Does he have any thoughts of retiring? He said, “well, I’m 35 now and I still feel great. As long as the team and myself feel I can add value, I will keep playing. So no thoughts about retiring any time soon!”
I also asked Jacques Botes what his thoughts are on the new breakdown rules that came into force 2009. He said he likes it and thinks it suits his team well, with the quicker ball they are getting and scoring more tries. ”You can see it’s working, because most of the teams are scoring more tries,” he added.
Then someone asked Plum a very good question. They asked how he was going keep his players motivated for the Super Rugby tournament after winning the Currie Cup – seeing as they won the Currie Cup in 2008 and had a pretty average Super 14 season in 2009. Plum said they will use the Currie Cup victory as motivation, but it’s important to remember that that’s in the past and they have to look forward and work really hard to do well in Super Rugby.
Afterwards Trevor Barnes (the Sharks team manager) told us they were going to have a little training session with some of the local kids and of course I went. They divided the children into groups and the players that were there helping the kids included John Smit, JP Pietersen, Jean Deysel and Ryan Kankowski. To go with that, Plum and Bashy were there too, working with the kids doing some training drills about for an hour.
While this was going on, I saw Zuks Vulindlu coming to the field and I headed over for a quick chat. He’s Xhosa, by the way – he says everyone thinks he’s a Zulu because he stays in Durban! Zuks told me that the team was going to have a training session a bit later and that I was welcome to come along. I also headed over to Plum to ask him a very tricky question -who he’s going to support in the World Cup later this year? “Mate, that’s a tough one,” he said, “because I come from New Zealand. I was born there, but they will be playing against my boys (the Sharks). “ He said he’s rather just going to sit on the fence with that one!
I rocked up at the Sharks training session and spoke to the team manager – he said it was a really tough week for the guys. They had two training sessions every day and a gym session or two as well. The team was in good spirits, though, with Ryan Kankowski, Keegan Daniel and JP Pietersen full of jokes. Charl McLeod was not present at the training session, because he went to his old school for a prize-giving.
I’d like to thank Rob and Sharksworld for this wonderful day – one ill never forget!Tweet