Sharks coach John Plumtree reckons the Absa Stadium is in for some fireworks over the next month as his team go about the business of securing a coveted berth in the Super 14 semifinals.
Mike Greenaway writes in the Cape Times that the Sharks lost narrowly to the Crusaders on Saturday after having suffered a heavy defeat to the Cheetahs a week earlier, and while they are tied with the Chiefs at the top of the table, they are likely to be overtaken by a number of their rivals this weekend because they have a bye.
“We are still very much in this competition, but there is now real pressure on us in the hunt for the playoff spots,” said Plumtree yesterday.
“We can’t afford to drop another game. We have to win all three (against the Highlanders, Waratahs and Bulls). And that’s okay. At least we know where we stand.”
After the defeat in Bloemfontein, the coach had been in a foul mood, but he was fatalistic about the 13-10 loss to the seven-times champions.
“Look, obviously we were very keen to get the result, and we are disappointed that we did not take the opportunities that would have secured it for us,” Plumtree said.
“But you would have to say that there were two good teams out there having a crack at each other and one was three points better.
“Against the Cheetahs, we did not front up, but this game we could have won but for some crucial knock-ons.”
Not to mention a TMO ruling on a possible penalty try early in the first half. The Sharks had destroyed their opponents’ scrum five metres from their line and a retreating forward dived on the ball from an alleged offside position. The TMO ruled in favour of the Crusaders, but Plumtree was not convinced that the decision had been correct.
“That looked like a (valid) case for a penalty try,” he said. “We are disappointed that we did not get it.”
Plumtree added that, after 10 weeks of battle, his players will benefit enormously from a break from the mental and physical intensity of the competition.
“But when the guys report back for work, the pressure is going to be on every one of us. I think this team will react well to it. We have a lot of big-game players and we are going into big games. There will be no need to motivate anybody.”
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder was humble as ever in victory.
“We are very pleased that we won, but it could just as easily have been another loss for us here. Two years ago, we lost in the last minute. That is how the games seem to go between these teams,” he said.
Blackadder paid tribute to his captain, All Black openside flank Richie McCaw, who was by some margin the best player on the park in his comeback game after six weeks of injury.
“He did an unbelievable amount of work behind the scenes to get ready for this match,” he said.Tweet