John Plumtree had to smile yesterday when he read in the press that All Black enforcer Jerry Collins is warning his team-mates of a tougher-than-ever battle with the Sharks forwards because of the “Plum factor.”
“He says the Sharks will be ‘like a loaded shotgun’, referring to the way I prepare teams for the big games,” Plumtree said to Mike Greenaway of the Mercury.
Plumtree coached Collins and most of the current Hurricanes team during his four-year tenure as coach of Wellington in the New Zealand National Championships, taking them to the final in his last year before joining the Sharks. So Plumtree knows Collins and Co inside out.
“The trouble is, they know him just as well.
“There is never a good time to play the Hurricanes in Wellington because they are a team that play so well at home (and are not good travellers), and the concern for me is that they are in position in the competition where they cannot afford to lose a home match,” Plumtree warned.
“I am aware that they set a target of winning at least one of their two pre-tour home games (against the Crusaders last week and the Sharks), so having lost to the Crusaders they will be regarding Saturday’s game as an absolute must-win.”
The hot-and-cold Hurricanes are fourth on the table, with four wins from six games and they leave on Sunday for matches in South Africa against the Stormers, Bulls and Cheetahs
“They are not only desperate to win this game but they want to win it well – they have been frustrated with their lack of consistency given the calibre of player in their squad (nine All Blacks),” Plumtree added.
So have the Sharks got what it takes to stop a Hurricanes team intent on blowing hot?
“Of course they have,” says Plumtree.
“It really is a big night for us and our players always respond to the big occasions.
“We have the players and most importantly we have the attitude.
“The thing is, though, and I keep saying it to the guys: If you want to beat the top teams you have play with great intensity and concentration for longer than 10 minutes at a tight, as we have been doing. You have to keep going for the whole match.
“That is what the Crusaders do so well.
“Even when they do not have the ball, they still keep up the intensity and then when the opposition lose focus, they cash in.”
The Sharks trained on Tuesday afternoon at a rugby club in the suburb where Plumtree used to live.
In a sharp session given the jet lag, it became clear that Frederic Michalak will play flyhalf against the Hurricanes, with Frans Steyn moving from that position to the midfield, probably for Waylon Murray, thus giving Steyn a brand new role.
If No 8 Ryan Kankowski does not recover from his ankle problem, Tongan Epi Taione is set to make his run-on debut. In another expected change, Steven Sykes will come in at lock for AJ Venter, who is undergoing a week of intense fitness training to get him up to speed with the rest of the squad.
Venter has been injured much of the season and will play off the bench this week.
15 Stefan Terblanche, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Frans Steyn, 12 Bradley Barritt, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Fred Michalak, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Ryan Kankowski/Epi Taione, 7 Jacques Botes, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Johann Muller, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Beast MtawariraTweet