John Plumtree, the Sharks assistant coach, has paged back through history to warn his players about the dangers of taking the Lions lightly in Saturday’s Super 14 game at Ellis Park.
Plumtree said on Tuesday that last season the Sharks were in a similar position, unbeaten and “chugging along nicely” after six games and at the top of the log, when they came horribly unstuck against the Brumbies in Durban.
John Bishop of The Witness writes that the unbeaten Sharks now face a struggling Lions team but Plumtree and head coach Dick Muir are taking nothing for granted.
“There haven’t been too many upsets in the tournament so far but you know that the Lions, Cheetahs, Stormers and Reds are going to cause upsets. You have to make sure that you are not one of those.”
Plumtree said the players’ maturity would be tested “after their massive win against the Blues.” “In this competition you cannot afford to be off your game for a week and we’ve all spoken about it. Now it’s up to players to deliver, do the basics and take their opportunities.
“If we’re on the money on the day, we will win.” Plumtree said the game would provide the Sharks with an opportunity to play away from the humidity and with a dry ball.
“We’ll want to play with the ball and, hopefully, we will be accurate enough to build pressure and score tries. This is big derby match and it will be pretty physical.”
The New Zealander said the players had the chance to leave on their overseas tour with six wins under their belt. (They face the Reds in Durban on March 29).
Killed off the ball
“We have a tough tour ahead and don’t want to drop points before we go but we must also not get ahead of ourselves.”
Plumtree said that both AJ Venter and Ruan Pienaar would be in the reckoning for Saturday.
“We need to get through a field session with both before we make a decision.”
He brushed off criticism by head Blues coach David Nucifora that the Sharks had killed off the ball at the breakdown and done little to construct their own tries.
“We were criticised by him last year as well (when the Sharks beat the Blues twice). If they don’t rate us, that’s fine, but we got the points and that was probably a shock for him.”
“We knew what to expect from Saturday’s referee and in the modern game you have to play the referee as well. The Blues had 10 free kicks and 10 penalties so he has no reason to feel aggrieved.
“But perhaps he expected a yellow card but referees do have different interpretations.”
Plumtree said that the Sharks’ plan had been to shut down the Blues’ space with aggressive defence.
“It’s the way you play against teams with their kind of players. You have got to be tough in defence or else you face a long day.”
But the Sharks coach said that the Blues were naive with the conditions and in trying to run in their own half “and that presented us with try-scoring opportunities.”Tweet