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Ken Borland



Injury-hit Alberts back for one last hurrah 0

Posted on December 13, 2016 by Ken

 

The hard-hitting Willem Alberts returns to the Sharks’ starting line-up for one last hurrah at Kings Park in their final SuperRugby match against the Stormers on Saturday before he joins the foreign legion.

The Springbok loose forward has had a badly disrupted season due to injury, playing just six games in which he has had six hours of action, but he has apparently recovered just in time to earn his 73rd SuperRugby cap for the Sharks before heading for Stade Francais.

Saturday’s SuperRugby finale (for the Sharks at least) is also the farewell for the Du Plessis brothers, Bismarck and Jannie, who are also heading to France, most probably to join the previous  Sharks coach, Jake White, at Montpellier.

Another Springbok flank, Marcell Coetzee, also returns to the Sharks line-up, boosting an outfit that is otherwise largely unchanged from the squad that has won two games in a row, against the Reds and the Rebels.

Coach Gary Gold said on Thursday that the team were eager to end a tough campaign on a high note, with three successive victories.

“We want to make the same statement as when it was important to beat the Reds and Rebels, and why it was important not to give up the fight on tour after two good performances against the Hurricanes and Waratahs. Teams do go through tough times; there will be critics, people who want to throw stones, that we’ll take on the chin. But the people that really matter know the challenges we’ve had, that it’s been a complicated year and the thing that would really frustrate them would be if the team gave up and rolled over. That we’re not prepared to do.

“The statement a win would make is that it matters, whoever you’re playing. We have to pitch up and we owe it to the people who have been loyal to us through the bad times, we need to give them good times now. It is critically important that we put up a proper performance and finish the campaign on a high. Not for any other reason other than the fact that it would be three wins on the bounce and give us confidence moving into the next chapter of our lives.

“I can’t sit here and say I’m happy with where we’re sitting on the log, I’m not happy at all. But in terms of the team and turning it around, I’m very proud of the character they’ve shown, I’m really appreciative of how the players have stuck together and stuck by us as a coaching staff; I never felt at any time that there was a divide between us and them. If there were issues, we spoke openly about them and that helped us turn the corner; too late unfortunately.

“But there have been lots of positives, youngsters who we never thought would get Super Rugby experience and now they have six or seven games under the belt, that can only do them the world of good,” Gold said.

Team – Lwazi Mvovo, Odwa Ndungane, JP Pietersen, Andre Esterhuizen, S’bura Sithole, Lionel Cronje, Stefan Ungerer, Renaldo Bothma, Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Marco Wentzel, Etienne Oosthuizen, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira. Bench: Franco Marais, Dale Chadwick, Lourens Adriaanse, Lubabalo Mtyanda, Khaya Majola, Conrad Hoffmann, Fred Zeilinga, Heimar Williams.

 

Sharks confirm worst-kept secret of Bok trio’s departure 0

Posted on November 24, 2016 by Ken

 

The Sharks have finally confirmed one of their worst-kept secrets and announced that Saturday’s SuperRugby match against the Stormers in Durban will be the last in Black and White for the Springbok trio of Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis and Willem Alberts.

As reported in The Citizen on May 19, the Sharks have been unable to hang on to the trio of hard men, who will all be heading for the riches of France after the World Cup. Loose forward Alberts is heading to Stade Francais, while the Du Plessis brothers will be going to Montpellier for a potentially awkward reunion with Jake White.

Hooker Bismarck du Plessis has been at the Sharks for 11 years and is their most-capped Super Rugby player, due to finish on 130 appearances after the Stormers game. Jannie joined the Sharks in 2008 and has 117 Super Rugby caps for the KwaZulu-Natalians, while Alberts arrived in Durban from the Lions in 2010 and made 72 appearances.

Chief executive John Smit told the Sharks website that it had been a privilege to have the trio in Durban.

“These three gents have played an instrumental and invaluable role at the Sharks over the years. It is naturally disappointing to lose players of this calibre that have given so much to Sharks rugby. As in many senior statesmen’s careers, they felt the time was right to experience something different abroad.

“We will never forget the many courageous performances from these three players, the countless outstanding performances and steals from Bissy, the rock-solid anchor at tighthead in Jannie and the enforcer in Willem. Not to mention Jannie playing the victorious Currie Cup final in 2013 with a broken hand.

“On behalf of the Sharks, I take this opportunity to thank them for their dedication, commitment and outstanding contribution to the franchise. We wish them and their families the very best for this new chapter they are embarking on,” Smit said.

Waratahs powerhouse Jacques Potgieter and newly-signed former Cheetahs and Biarritz loose forward Philip van der Walt will fill in for Alberts, but at the moment the Du Plessis brothers will have to be replaced by home-grown talent.

 

 

Absence of Alberts would be major blow for Sharks 0

Posted on August 09, 2016 by Ken

 

The fitness of Willem Alberts, Franco Marais and Conrad Hoffmann are the new concerns facing Sharks coach Gary Gold ahead of his team announcement on Thursday for their SuperRugby match against the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday.

The absence of the inspirational physical presence of Alberts would obviously be a massive blow for the Sharks as they take on the runaway leaders of the competition and, although Renaldo Bothma is fit to play, the only other specialist loose forward on tour is Etienne Oosthuizen, who did not have the best of games last weekend against the Highlanders.

The arrival of the experienced Kyle Cooper from South Africa this week means the reserve hooker berth is taken care of should Marais not pass a late fitness test, but the player Cooper replaced, Cobus Reinach, has left a massive gap at scrumhalf.

Reinach has fractured his hand, according to Gold, and his substitute against the Highlanders, Hoffmann, now also has a niggle. The inexperienced Stefan Ungerer could therefore be in for a baptism of fire at The Cake Tin.

After four successive defeats – two of them in ignominious fashion – Gold said he does not believe he needs to light a fire under his squad just yet.

“For me the big stick comes out when you have a look at your play and get a sense of a group of players who are lethargic, non-committed and are not trying hard enough. I do not believe that this is the case at the moment.

“Over the course of my coaching career I have had to use the big stick. Don’t get me wrong, I am by no means satisfied with our performances, but at this moment in time I see a group of players who are hurting a lot and whose pride is at stake.

“As a coach and a leader, one needs to assess the situation. Everybody goes through tough times. I do not believe for a minute that this group lacks commitment, in fact, the players are committed to fixing the problem.

“Difficult times require calm heads and mature leadership. We have a great group of senior guys who are committed to seeing out this campaign.  A lot of lessons have been learnt and a huge amount of lessons can be taken out of this campaign, which will only benefit us down the line,” Gold said.

 

Return of Alberts just the tonic for Sharks 0

Posted on June 07, 2016 by Ken

 

The return of powerhouse flank Willem Alberts to the Sharks team is just the tonic they need in this time of crisis, but coach Gary Gold faces a difficult decision when it comes to either starting the Springbok against the Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday or bringing him on off the bench.

Alberts has been battling hamstring injuries since last year and has played just one SuperRugby match this season, against the Stormers in Cape Town a month ago, where he re-injured the tendon.

But he’s been back at training this week and Gold will need to decide whether to start with the battering ram and see just how much time they can get out of him, or bring him off the bench and hope he can make an impact and last for 20 minutes or so.

Alberts is the sort of player who can inspire a team and the 30-year-old was positive that the Sharks can turn their fortunes around, while acknowledging that things have not gone according to plan thus far.

“It’s been another new beginning for us this season with a new coaching staff, plus injuries or suspensions making players unavailable. But we still believe that we are in contention and we are working hard for each other. It was obviously a hiccup last week, but luckily in rugby, the next week brings a new chance and we have to take it and move forward,” Alberts said.

The former Lions player is a senior figure at the Sharks and he brushed off suggestions that it was the older players to blame for the KwaZulu-Natalians’ implosion in recent weeks.

“The younger players need to raise their level of play, they have to step up and show that they are up for big rugby. But we were all young players at some stage and we support them, we try our best to help them do their best. There’s a great environment here at the Sharks, with young and old players and we just want to go forward as a team,” Alberts said.

A couple of those older players –props Jannie du Plessis and Tendai Mtawarira – have played for four weeks in a row now and, in terms of the agreement with Springbok management, they will need to be rested either this weekend or the next.

Given that the Sharks face the Bulls in Durban next week, Gold may well decide to rest them this week ahead of that must-win home match.



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