Playing against the Force David Pocock’s name was always going to come up, “He is one of the best fetchers in the world, everyone knows that.” says Whitehead, who was present at the press conference on Tuesday “We’ll be working hard to keep him quiet and we’ve got Heinrich Brussouw next week as well. It is a big part of the game, you have to keep a player like that under control and we work hard on that.”
Certainly the set pieces and the breakdowns have been a part of the Sharks game that has been improving each week, but Plumtree denies giving specific attention to these areas of the game calling them “just basic principles” that they practice every week, says Plumtree: “We do lots of line-outs, lots of scrums and spend a lot of time at the breakdowns, if you don’t get those areas right you don’t get a game, so the set pieces and the breakdowns have got to function.” When questioned about the problems in accuracy of handling and passing that the team has been having this season Plumtree even dares a bit of sarcasm, “We don’t practice to drop the ball. That’s for sure” but quickly followed that up by saying how annoyed they were with themselves in the Chiefs game, “We created opportunities and dropped the ball, so we are hard on ourselves at training and focussed on tidying up those skills.”.
Mark Lawrence will be the man in charge for this game and although Sharks fans are none too pleased with this, as results just don’t seem to go our way when he carries the whistle, Plumtree has a more analytical view of the situation, “The fact is he is a letter of the law kind of ref and very tough on the breakdown, maybe the toughest in the whole competition.” so according to Plumtree the breakdowns will be marshalled, which is what we want. He says that he knew the Highlanders will be a tough team in this area, as they commit a lot of numbers to the breakdown, which is fine as long as it is all legal, but he was hoping Steve Walsh would be tough in this area, “And hopefully this week we can also keep a clamp on the Force” says Plumtree, “We’re playing against a couple of really good fetchers, Pocock is not the only guy that can fetch the ball in their team, Richard Brown is another. So we have to make sure to be very accurate at the breakdown, we’ll struggle struggle for continuity if we’re not, and get a lot of slow ball.
Weather reports predict a clear and sunny weekend and with the Force being one of the lower ranked teams, surely a more open running game must be on the cards, to attempt a four try bonus point victory. “We’re not talking about bonus points” was the coaches direct answer, “We have to put a plan in place and hopefully the players can execute that plan. If that means kicking more then that’s what we’ll do.” Clearly Plumtree didn’t want to give away too much, as he then continued to say, “We obviously want to play a brand of rugby that is exciting that’s what we have always done at the Sharks.” and then backtracked to,”But if we’re winning and not doing that at the moment, then that’s we’ll take, it is important to remember that at the moment winning is what we’re interested in doing and not really how we’re doing it.
Although Plumtree has certainly made it clear that they won’t be playing an expansive game to please anyone it seems by his analysis of the Force he may still be employing this game plan, “They’ve got the second highest ball carrying stats, second only to the Highlanders. They keep the ball for long periods of time, they’ve got the best line-out in the competition and they scrummed well against the Cheetahs.” says Plumtree reinforcing the idea that a ball in hand approach could be on the cards, but it’s Tim Whitehead’s input that tips the scale, “They’re a very good defensive side. They’re going to be difficult to breach. We need to keep the ball for long times and our attack will be alright. “ he says it plainly, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens on Saturday.
In the end I think Plumtree was spot on when he said, “They key thing is just to get the win. Winning breeds confidence. If we win we can have a lot of extra belief and confidence in our ability. We’ll train with smiles on our faces, because we got the points and it helps unbelievably. We’ve always got a plan in place. Sometimes that plan works nicely or it can fail, but there’s no coincidence.” and now they just need to put that into practice. Win consistently and no one will care about the game plan.Tweet