Exactly 20 years ago John Plumtree scored a try on debut for Natal in their Currie Cup match at Newlands, a game in which the Banana Boys played extremely well but lost to the powerhouse Province side.
Two decades later, in Plumtree’s debut match as head coach, his team often resembled a dog’s breakfast, but were still good enough to beat visiting Western Province 28-25, writes Mike Greenaway on www.iol.co.za.
Most of the 17 000 faithful present were muttering under their breath about the quality of the Sharks’ performance, especially in the first half, when they looked muddled at best, but after the match Plumtree was not nearly as miffed as you would expect.
That is because he knows what is to come from his team over the marathon three months ahead, but mostly because he learned from this game that his team has the most important ingredients of them all – character and courage.
“The rest will come,” Plumtree said.
“I really am not worried. We have had a very short turnaround from the Super 14, lost so many guys to the Springboks and had to play many players out of position in key areas.
“The plan is to get better each week, building slowly but surely.”
The Sharks were rusty, make no mistake, and their lives were made difficult by the unerring boot of Willem de Waal, who almost kicked his team to victory.
“He aged me a bit,” Plumtree said.
“He just does not miss and the more difficult the kick, the easier he made it look. Having said that. Province pretty much had a 10 and a pack of forwards. They did not offer much more, and that is not a style of rugby I want the Sharks to play.
“Yes, we were disappointing in the first half, but I was proud of some of the rugby we played in the second half in very difficult conditions (the second half was played in very heavy rain).”
An interested observer in the stands was one Frederic Michalak. He will only be ready to play in three weeks time, but it is reassuring nonetheless for Plumtree to know that a world class flyhalf is present, willing and just about able.
“Of course he will make a big difference, but I think Bradley Barritt went quite well,” the coach said.
“He had not played there for a while and he had a very bad build up to the game. He had flu all week and then hurt his back in practice and nearly pulled out. I thought he showed great character.”
As did the hero of the night, Rory Kockott, who shook off his disappointment at not being included in the 36-man Springbok training squad with yet another man-of-the-match performance.
“Rory is having a very good year, for sure,” Plumtree said.
“Mentally he is so strong. You always know what you are going to get from him. He is a tenacious and confident young man, and he is going to get better at his game. This is only his second year in first class rugby. He has plenty of time to make the Boks.”
The Sharks host Boland this Friday night.Tweet