Plumtree has been bringing his big guns back into the starting unit bit by bit, a policy which should have sat well with both the players that guided the Sharks through a highly successful league phase of the Currie Cup, as well as the star players who will be able to arrive at the deciding game of the domestic season not feeling like they have been overworked.
No doubt that should please Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer too, for his team will be playing Ireland in Dublin two weeks on Saturday, and having the likes of Willem Alberts starting just once between that match and the previous international against the All Blacks is probably the right way to go about it.
The timing is perfect too, for it is now three weeks since the final Castle Rugby Championship fixture, and with two weeks to go until Dublin, it means Alberts and Beast Mtawarira will arrive at the Aviva Stadium match feeling rested but also not rusty.
Mtawarira returns at the expense of Dale Chadwick at loosehead, and the Westville High School old boy can rightly feel the most disappointed member of the Sharks group as he drops out of the match day squad for this game. However, Plumtree’s selection policy ensured that he was a big part of the semifinal win over the Blue Bulls last week, and he can feel he has made a significant contribution and has grown markedly as a player since the early stages of the last Super Rugby season.
Alberts returns to the No 7 jersey in place of stalwart Jean Deysel, a captain of the team early in the domestic season and another player who can feel he has made a massive contribution. At least in Deysel’s case he finds place on the bench and no doubt will have an crucial role to play when he comes on late in the final.
Craig Burden is back at hooker too, a selection that some might consider contentious after Kyle Cooper’s excellent performance last week. It looked as though the lineout play of the Sharks deterioted later in the game against the Bulls, which was when Cooper was off the field.
But there is another experienced campaigner coming back into the formation after recovering from injury. Steven Sykes only played as a reserve last week but this time he will wear the No 4 jersey as the Sharks tight five starts to take on the formidable look of the unit that has proven better than Province in past battles.
Only hooker Bismarck du Plessis is missing from the front row that set up the 2010 final victory over WP, but even without Du Plessis, there are still five members of the Sharks pack who have started test matches during the course of this year. By contrast, WP can only boast two in the form of Duane Vermeulen and Eben Etzebeth.
A glance through the Sharks team confirms why it is being said that the union boasts perhaps the best depth it ever has at this point. There isn’t an area of weakness, and there also isn’t an area where there is capable back-up to the player in the starting team. And if you consider that three of the finest Sharks players, Ryan Kankowski, Du Plessis and Frans Steyn, aren’t available at the moment, it dawns that the Sharks should be targeting the Currie Cup final as merely a stepping stone to a much bigger title in 2013.
Super Rugby demands depth if you are to succeed, and the Sharks have that aplenty.