Some good news from the Sharks is that Patrick Lambie looks likely to be ready for this weekend’s clash with the Bulls. Unfortunately it looks like he will be the only one of a reasonably long list, including key man, Willem Alberts. Lambie will go through a fitness test later today and looks likely to play at fullback as Frans Steyn has been running outside Fred Michelack at training. Steyn has quite a bit of homework to do, to familiarise himself with the backline moves, but says that he has played next to Fred in his last game at Kings Park in the 2010 Currie Cup Final and he feels quite comfortable that they will combine well come Friday night. Steyn is a welcome back-up to the injured junior Bok Paul Jordaan who tweaked his hamstring strain in training earlier this week.
Even though the players have been away from the tournament for 4 weeks (including last week’s bye), Plumtree says that getting the guys to focus has not been a problem, “After this weekend you’re either in or out and that’s all the motivation you need”. The coach admits that he’s not a fan of this long break in the middle of the competition as teams are looking rusty and many of the returning internationals have come back with injuries, which influences the quality of the last few weeks, “Just look at the Crusaders, they’ve come back and lost at home, something that is unusual for them, because one of their key players in Dan Carter was out, but that’s the draw, you just got to get on with it.”
A big challenge awaits the Sharks as 10 points in the last 2 weeks against the Bulls and the Cheetahs seem non negotiable, a situation they could have avoided if they had not stumbled over the final hurdle, not managing one log point against the Lions just before the International Tours. The pressure of having to win every game might just be exactly what the Sharks need to spur them on and get them back to playing to their potential again, as Plumtree rightly points out, when the going got tough mid season and every game was all or nothing, the Sharks stepped up and produced their best rugby and seemingly saved their tournament, before going down to the lowly Lions, “Clearly when the gun is directed directly between our eyes we react better” says Plumtree and seeing the painful irony in the statements adds, “I don’t know why that is. It’s a bit unfortunate.”
It seems by all reasonable calculations that anything less than 10 log points will leave the Sharks desperately short of a play-off spot, but Plumtree will not put his focus on bonus point rugby for this weekend. “If we get to a stage where we gained some momentum and the boys want to go to the corner we’ll do that.” This weekend will be a tough game and Plumtree clearly feels that the focus should be on the game at hand and doing the basics right before the players can start to think about things like bonus points against a team like the Bulls and adds, “Look we might need 9 points, we might need 10 we’re not sure at this point. We just want to focus on playing good rugby.” Hopefully good rugby will be good enough for 5 points, because 4 log points just might not be good enough.Tweet