Sharks in better shape

Sharks coach John Plumtree is satisfied with the depth in his squad this season.

The Durban-based franchise began last year’s tournament without injured players like Beast Mtawarira, Jean Deysel, Willem Alberts and Ryan Kankowski, and lost their opening two matches, against the Bulls and Stormers.

Plumtree, though, is confident they will avoid a repeat in 2013. This time round, only two players are injured, Bismarck du Plessis (who is expected to be back in April) and prop Dale Chadwick, who is out for four to six weeks with a stress fracture in his foot.

‘If you look at our squad, there is good depth in the backs, good depth in the locks now, and good depth among the loose forwards,’ Plumtree told the Sharks website. ‘There is really good competition for places and with the two trial games coming up [against the Leopards in Pietermaritzburg on 8 February and the Pumas in Nelspruit a week later] we’ll get the opportunity to see how everyone performs.’

While the Sharks no longer have the services of Steven Sykes (Kings), Ross Skeate (Agen) and Frederic Michalak (Toulon), they have made two good acquisitions in former Lions duo Butch James and Franco van der Merwe (the latter on loan), which will add depth in key positions.

‘Butch and Franco have done well,’ said Plumtree. ‘Franco is really enjoying it here. Although it is different to what he is used to, he looks to have settled in nicely. Butch knows our system, knows how we operate here and it’s really just coming back to family for him. He’s been great.’