Sharks hoping injuries don’t derail their title bid

Sharks coach John Plumtree says that he has never experienced the amount of injuries the Sharks are struggling with before in his career.

The Sharks face the Cheetahs this weekend in Durban and have had to make four changes to the team that lost to the Stormers.

In what was a disruptive week for most Super Rugby franchises due to a Springbok training camp, the coastal outfit had the added concern of losing more players through injury.

JP Pietersen joined their lengthy casualty list due to an ankle problem and Plumtree conceded it had been a tough week.

“Injuries are really doing their best to try and derail our bid to win the trophy, so it’s become difficult and stressful for everyone here –the coaches, players and medical team,” Plumtree said.

“Players are getting re-x-rayed and re-scanned to see where they are.”

“There are a lot of conversations around where our players are in terms of fitness and return to action and it’s pretty frustrating, distracting and not fun at all.

“I’ve never experienced something like this in my coaching career, so it’s a big test for me, but we have a squad and we’ve got to focus on who is fit and keep functioning so we can put in a good showing against the Cheetahs.”

Pietersen’s absence is one of four changes to the team, while three of their Bok players — Francois Steyn, Ryan Kankowski and Jannie du Plessis — have also been dropped, with Odwa Ndungane, Riaan Viljoen, Jean Deysel and Wiehahn Herbst all selected for this weekend’s fixture.

The match against the Free Staters comes on the back of a 22-15 loss to the Stormers last week — only their second defeat of the campaign — but the Sharks remained third in the overall standings.

The Cheetahs, who last won at Kings Park in 2010, had a five-match winning streak snapped by the Bulls last week.

“We’re not too worried about the Cheetahs, we’re just trying to focus on our own game,” Plumtree said.

“We’ve just got to go out there with the right attitude on the weekend and make sure we’re accurate with what we’re doing.”

The Sharks boss also defended his try-shy team after the growing concern over their failure to cross the whitewash. They have scored just 13 tries so far, the lowest number overall, along with the Stormers and Bulls.

“At the end of the day, we’ve won five games and only lost two, one by a narrow margin, but we know we’re not scoring as many tries as we would like to.

“We were one of the top try-scoring sides in the competition last year but it hasn’t helped with all the injuries. We haven’t been full-strength and at the moment the side is battling away.

“I know everyone is getting into us for the amount of tries that haven’t been scored, but it isn’t through a lack of trying.”

Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske, who made one change to his team by naming Coenie Oosthuizen ahead of Trevor Nyakane, was admittedly disappointed over their loss in Pretoria and hoped for a turnaround in Durban.

“Things didn’t go the way we would have liked against the Bulls,” he said.

“We got the bonus point, but we let ourselves down with regards to a victory.

“This weekend it is crucial that we deliver a winning performance.”

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