Sharks coach John Plumtree held a press conference and the following key areas were discussed, some positive and some a little negative.
Plumtree was positive about the different way of tackling pre-season, with a much more individualistic approach, as mentioned previously on Sharksworld, as well keeping the guys on track with their own programmes over the Christmas break. The success of this approach will only be seen once the season starts and the players have taken the hits on a weekly basis. The first taste of the success of this can be seen when the Sharks tackle each other in a trial match on 4 February.
Speaking briefly on the Neo Africa Tri-Series, Plumtree mentioned that they have decided to pull out based on the fact that the Sharks play the Stormers early on in the SupeRugby tournament, and that he is against this type of double match up. Secondly, the Sharks have never performed well in Cape Town, and the option to play a game against Boland at Kings Park was preferred.
The two warm up matches against Boland (at home) and the EP Kings (away) will provide some tough opposition for the Sharks, according to Plumtree. Both matches will go a long way in preparing the side to be ready once they take the field against the Bulls in the opening round of the SupeRugby tournament.
The focus was turned to Pat Lambie, and the question over which position the young man will play was always going to surface. Plumtree is excited to play Pat at flyhalf, with the squad having two great fullbacks in Riaan Viljoen and Louis Ludik already. The good news is that the Sharks will have Frenchman Freddie Michalak available for the SupeRugby campaign, which gives the team good depth in that department. Michalak can also cover scrumhalf, which is another position where he might be called upon, especially after news of Conrad Hoffmann’s injury.
The new men in the squad were mentioned, with both Riaan Viljoen and Tim Whitehead receiving praise from their coach, with Viljoen referred to as an experienced and outstanding attacking player, while it was mentioned that Whitehead has been on Plumtree’s radar for some time now, and that the player will finally have an opportunity to step up. This is great news in my books, as it will certainly mean that the player will get his fair share of game time.
Gouws Prinsloo and Paul Jordaan both impressed the coach in the Sharks Under 21 campaign last year, and with such exciting players bubbling under, we can expect them to make an impact off the bench or at some stage during the campaign.
The two areas of most concern in the Sharks setup at the moment are at lock and in the centres. At lock, Ross Skeate found some good form in the latter half of last year, and will be pushing Al Hargreaves for that 5 jersey, whereas the ball carrying lock will be between Jandre Marais and Anton Bresler. Add into the mix the young Piet-Steph du Toit, and we have quite a bit of depth in the second row. Plumtree did make it clear that playing Alberts or Deysel at lock would not be his first choice, but that it might happen during a game.
In the midfield, the combination of Marius Joubert and Meyer Bosman have undergone a series of conditioning programmes and should come out firing in the new season. They will be supported by both Tim Whitehead and Paul Jordaan, which gives the team a nice bit of competition for the two jerseys.
In more positive news, John Plumtree has said that the captaincy announcement will be made next weekTweet