The Sharks will play their first home game this weekend when they take on the Stormers in another very important match in this year’s Super Rugby competition. The first few games and getting off to a good start is always very important, but never more so when those games are local derbies where the conference points will be affected. Taking the log points away from your conference opposition has almost become just as important as taking the 4 points from the game. A team like the Reds scraped through to a home play-off game by winning their conference last year, while the Sharks had to fly all the way to Australia to take on a team that ended up with fewer points on the overall log than they did. John Plumtree’s men in no uncertain terms have made it clear that this is not a situation that they want to find themselves in again.
“There’s no secret if you win the conference you don’t have to go through that. You don’t want to put yourself in the situation we did last year and there were certain things that frustrated us that led to that happening. We’ve talked about that this pre-season, we want to make sure that we don’t slip up when we should win and find the consistency in our game that will push for a semi-final place at the end of the competition and not having to go to Australia to get there, it’s not what we want.”
“Finishing in the top 6 of this competition is no mean feat, most coaches will tell you it’s a tough competition, but we want to talk about home finals, that’s where we want to go, but talk’s cheap isn’t it, you have to put the action on the field and that’s what our guys want to do this year.”
The Sharks came through their first conference match with four points and relatively unscathed, “We took a couple of knocks, but luckily Meyer and Deysel are okay, the ground was pretty hard there.” Says Plumtree of the state of his team and Lwazi Mvovo who limped off the field took part in training and also looks set to be available for this weekend.
The Stormers on the other hand had to go to Loftus for their first game and did not came out of that battle so well, picking up a few injuries and after a poor first half performance went home with no log points. Elton Jantjies and Jaco Taute, two players brought in on a loan basis from the Lions to strengthen their team, didn’t deliver their best performances in their first game for the Stormers. Allister Coetzee has said that he will back these players again, although injured Taute is likely to be replaced by Joe Pietersen, which will ease Coetzee’s decision of playing Jantjies again, as he will have good cover in Pietersen to take over the kicking duties if needed.
The usually clinical Stormers looked out of sorts in their first game and especially their set pieces must be a concern, but Plumtree says that he won’t concern himself with their issues too much at this stage of the competition and would rather be concentrating in what his team needs to do.
“After the Cheetahs game we have plenty of work to do as well. I think it’s pretty clear that we weren’t perfect either. The one area of the game that I was really happy with was our set piece. If the Stormers weren’t happy with theirs, they’ll be working hard on it this week to make sure that we don’t dominate. That’s just the way it goes, you look to correct where it didn’t go so well the week before.”
Plumtree also pointed out the the Stormers and most of these players were the guys who came to KINGS PARK last year and took the Currie Cup. It’s clear that the Stormers game against the Bulls, a side who Plumtree feels any team will struggle against to take log points from at Loftus, will not be a great indicator to the Sharks team of what they will be up against. At this early stage in the season it seems the coach will not make the mistake of under assessing a team or over analysing a game, but rather making sure that he’s team will work on their shortcomings of the week before to deliver the best performance they can.
“There were just little things at the breakdown, where we were a little clumsy. A couple of times we were short on numbers and got turned over. A couple of times it was just a poor carry into contact. The Stormers will hit you hard, so we have to make sure that we maintain possession when they hit us. We have worked on that this morning and it’s a big focus for us, we have to keep the ball.”
It certainly will help the Coach that his team is playing at home this weekend in conditions they are used to. It seems that the hot and dry conditions in Bloemfontein really hit the players hard last week, as fatigue has been identified as one of the contributing factors of the Sharks allowing two quick tries to slip through. The coach had to substitute players with knocks and who were looking fatigued and will be hoping that they will be able to sustain the pace and tempo right to the end in this weekend’s game, but he still felt that his substitutes did a good job for him last weekend.
“Physically the altitude and heat were taxing on the side and I think bench that came on was outstanding, Meyer Bosman made two fantastic try saving tackles and Jean Deysel carried for us when we needed it last 16 min of that game” he says, “A lot of the decisions are made for you because of the injuries, but we have quality on our bench. We have Jean Deysel for a Marcell or a big carrier for another carrier. You need just keep your options open.”
Plumtree rightly pointed out that big Pieter Steph du Toit came on and also made a few big contributions, as well as Kyle Cooper who had a clean game as far as his set pieces went. As the substitutions came on right at the time the two tries were scored it’s easy to point to this as the problem, but given that two tries were scored in quick succession after which there was 20 minutes of counter attack after counter attack from a motivated Cheetahs side, it has to be said that the team did well to recover and keep the Cheetahs out to take the win.
“They played really well, so we have to give them some credit, it wasn’t just about us being bad” says Plumtree, “When we turned them over we made some good gains because we used the turn over ball really well and when they turned us over they used it really well. So they scored against scramble defence and broke us out wide against props.”Tweet