Regardless of whatever happens in the two weeks that follows, I think it’s time that we, as Sharks fans, take our hats off to a man whose coaching record in the Currie Cup totally obliterates what anyone else has achieved in the last few years.
John Plumtree assumed the role of Currie Cup head coach for the Sharks in 2007, 18 months before he first led the team, solo, in Super Rugby. Those six campaigns at the helm have delivered unprecedented success and while semi-finals and their permutations may always throw up the odd unexpected result, you simply have to recognise the achievements of the coach who has ensured that when knock-out time comes, the Sharks are always in the running – and what’s more, are always at home.
Under Dick Muir’s coaching, the Sharks squeaked into fourth place on the 2006 Currie Cup log, after missing out altogether the year before. Plumtree took them to a second place finish in his first year (2007), before topping the log in his next three campaigns on the trot (2008, 2009 and 2010). Last year’s red-hot run by the Lions saw the Sharks again in second, but they have managed to bounce back in 2012 to again end first. That’s six straight home semi-finals in the last six years. Comparing that record to any of the other teams in the Currie Cup, it stands head and shoulders above all of them; each of the Lions, Western Province, the Blue Bulls and the Cheetahs have, at one point or another over the last six years, missed out entirely on reaching the semi-final stage in the Currie Cup.
Under Plumtree, the Sharks have won the trophy twice (in 2008 and 2010) and lost in the final once (2011). The inescapable blemish on that coaching record, though, comes in the form of two home semi-final losses, in 2007 (against the Lions) and 2009 (against the Cheetahs) and those with a statistical leaning will glean that it’s far more likely that the Sharks might stumble this weekend, in the semi, than in next weekend’s final, assuming they get that far.
Quite unlike in Super Rugby, no trophy is awarded to the side that tops the log and the Sharks will know that while plenty of good work has been done, the real challenge will come in the next fortnight. Will they give Plumtree another trophy and thus cement his position as the best Currie Cup coach the team has ever had? Only time will tell.Tweet