Sharks coach John Plumtree believes there is no reason why the class of 2008 should not emulate the team he played in during the 1990s and win a number of Currie Cup titles.
Speaking to rugby365.com’s Jan de Koning ahead of the Sharks’ semifinal showdown with the Lions in Durban on Saturday, Plumtree said his team is ready to banish the play-off blues that have been haunting them since their last title more than a decade ago.
Since their last title, the Currie Cup tournament of 1996, the Sharks have made the play-offs with monotonous regularity – runners-up three times and semifinalists three times in Super Rugby, as well as Currie Cup runners-up four times and semifinalists six times. In fact the only years they did not make the Currie Cup play-offs were 2004 and 2005.
Yet, they have been unable to kick on and win a trophy … something Plumtree hopes to change in the next fortnight.
Plumtree, a member of that famous Sharks team that won four titles during the Ian McIntosh era between 1990 and 1996, said the class of 2008 is right up there with the men from the ’90s in terms of talent and class.
“If you compare us [the current side] to the side of the 1990s, it is right up there,” he said, adding: “There were lots of Springboks that played under Mac [Ian McIntosh] and there’s lots of Springboks in this team.
“However, it is how you come together as a group on the day and we’re treating this game as our last one,” he said of their encounter with the Lions.
Plumtree felt that the current shiver of Sharks have experienced play-off situations often enough to know exactly what it will take.
They have played in the 2007 Super 14 Final, the Super 14 semifinal this year and a number of them also played in the victorious Springbok team in the World Cup Final last year.
“They know what the big games are all about,” he said, adding that his team deserves to be at home in the play-offs – the reward for topping the Currie Cup table after a season of hard work.
But the conversation inevitably turns to their record in the play-offs.
“Those are external things and we’ve talked about that,” Plumtree said when asked about the team’s track record for the past decade.
“We are focussing on what we can do to improve that and trying to concentrate on what we can control.
“If we can fix that problem then it is good, but it is all history and yes, there will be a lot of talk about that.
“I was lucky enough to have played in an era when we won Currie Cups and that’s great.
“But there’s no reason why with this group in can’t happen.”
The Sharks coach knows that play-offs are often a lottery and on the day “anything can happen”.
“We’re playing against a good team and whoever plays the best rugby on the day will get that reward,” Plumtree said.
The Sharks have only one injury worry in their build-up to the semifinal against the Lions, with veteran lock forward Albert van der Berg nursing a shoulder injury he suffered in the 66-12 rout of Griquas at the weekend.
“We will just have to wait and see, because he’s a bit sore at the moment,” Plumtree said, without committing to a timeframe in which he will make a call on the rangy second row forward.Tweet