With Sunday’s historic Super Rugby clash at Twickenham only ending at 6pm, the Sharks team was always going to be in a big rush to get to Heathrow Airport in time for their 9pm departure back to South Africa. I was quite pleasantly surprised, then, to see that John Plumtree managed to make the time to address the gaggle of assembled media types shortly after the final whistle.
Plum looked pretty relaxed and was his down-to-earth self, although he admitted to being quite relieved that the Sharks had managed to come back and play, in his words, “some bloody good footie” in the second half of the game. The questions from the British press typically revolved around the spectacle they had just seen and the coach’s task would have been unenviable indeed had his side not contributed something meaningful to the day’s entertainment, even though they ultimately lost by 16 points.
“I think we were defensively naive in the first 20 minutes, ” he explained, “and this team has set the benchmark in Super 15 so far. I think this is the best the Crusaders have ever been and you can’t afford to get behind and try play catch up against a team as good as this. I’m proud of the boys for coming back the way they did and making sure we could also contribute to the spectacle.” Asked whether he thought that we might see more Super Rugby games in the UK in future, he was less enthusiastic, though. “This is was pretty hard on us logistically, ” he said, “but we’re a part of SANZAR and we wanted to do our bit too.” The prospect of the Stormers game, coming up on Saturday, was very clearly front of mind for the Sharks coach, whereas his Crusaders counterpart, Todd Blackadder, was visibly more relaxed with his team’s first bye coming up this weekend.
Sharksworld forced our way into the stream of questions, of course, asking the coach whether he felt that 12 points from the tour was a reasonable return. “We were targeting 3 wins,” Plum admitted, “and really let ourselves down against the Chiefs. That meant we had to come here and make up those points against the Crusaders, which is always a big ask.” Not quite the result that the team was looking for, in other words, but then again, we’ve seen these tours go off a hell of a lot worse in the past. News on the injury front was mixed, with Jacques-Louis Potgieter’s calf a concern ahead of the Stormers game. Meyer Bosman did well at flyhalf for 20 minutes against the Crusaders, though, with Plumtree acknowledging that he’d be the man entrusted with the number 10 shirt should Potgieter not recover.
The Crusaders coach is another softly-spoken Kiwi who carries a big presence into the room and it was quite stirring to hear Blackadder talk about how pleased he was that his side could hopefully bring a little cheer to so many lives devastated by the earthquake in Christchurch. His comments about Sonny Bill Williams have been widely reported elsewhere, but I think he summed it up quite nicely in saying “he has the potential to be as good as he wants to be… it’s amazing to think that he’s only played 5 games of Super Rugby!”
Sharksworld was lucky enough to grab a few minutes of Blackadder’s time after the formal conference was over and we were again struck by what a down-to-earth and just downright NICE guy the Crusaders coach is. He was respectful and full of praise for the way the Sharks had played, concurring with Plumtree that they’d produced some sublime rugby at times in the game. He admitted that he’d been a nervous man before the try that finally sealed the game. He also mentioned exactly how much his side were looking forward to facing the Bulls in Timaru in two weeks’ time!Tweet