Those of you waking up this morning to the somewhat surprising Sharks team announcement for this weekend’s game might just be rubbing your eyes and wondering whether you may, in fact still be dreaming.
Let’s face it, we’ve developed a bit of a habit, over the last few seasons, of questioning, doubting and often ridiculing the rather conservative approach that has typified Sharks coach John Plumtree. This is a man, we’ve come to realise, who likes to play it safe, who values experience, who counts caps. A man who believes in the tried and tested, the established combinations, the core of senior players. We’ve allowed our frustration to spill over at times too, perhaps not going quite so far as to openly call for the coach’s head, but certainly to wonder, very loudly, whether this staid Kiwi is, in fact, the right man to be taking the Sharks forward.
That’s only ever been when we’ve lost, of course. We love Plum when we win… we’re only fans, at the end of the day. Only human.
There’s an old song that goes “if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with” and I guess one of the best things about this ostensibly “new” Plumtree that seems to be embarking on Mission:2012 with so much unaccustomed panache, is that he honestly does appear to be a lot more like the sort of coach we feel we ought to have. He announces his sides in plenty of time. He backs youngsters. He’s not afraid to post a senior player back to the Vodacom Cup if that player’s contributions no longer warrant a place in the Super Rugby side. He puts untried players in the starting lineup (Whitehead) and on the bench (Jordaan) because he can see they add flair and unpredictability – it’s that “x factor” that he wants to have in his team. He knows that form counts for more than reputation and that fire in the belly can often count for just as much as a dozen caps earned a few seasons back.
Like I said, this really seems to be the sort of coach we feel we want. Until he loses a game, at which point, I’m sure, there will be a fair few clamouring for the “old” Plum, the “safety first” Plum, the “it wouldn’t have happened if we’d had our Boks” Plum…
Doom and gloom aside, though, I for one am certainly very pleased with the side of the bed Master Plumtree has chosen to wake up on in 2012. As with all good omelettes, this one will not be made without a few eggs going astray en route. The Sharks – and Plum – have given us a little taste of what we’ve asked for (although the proof of this pudding will be tasted on Friday evening). Let’s hope that the new, improved Plum pudding is indeed everything we hoped – nay dreamed – it would be.Tweet