Plumtree: Watch out for Pumas
John Plumtree (Gallo Images)
Durban - Sharks coach John Plumtree conceded his side received a "reality check" from the Pumas in their Currie Cup encounter last weekend, but was adamant it would not happen again.
The defending champions, who scraped a 23-22 victory in Nelspruit on Friday night, were regrouping ahead of a tough encounter against the Cheetahs at Kings Park on Saturday.
"After looking at the performance more closely the next day, I certainly thought they won't come much tougher than that in the Currie Cup," Plumtree said.
"It was very physical and we were a little bit off the money in terms of our accuracy.
"The Pumas were very physical and we got exactly what we expected from them," said Plumtree.
"Although we were behind it was pretty close at half time, but when we were trailing towards the end of the game and hanging in there, we managed to get a late try and then held on for the win.
"As I said, they were very tough and physical and the boys did well to show plenty of character to hang in there and get the win."
And according to Sharks website editor, Michael Marnewick, Plumtree warned that some teams are going to get unstuck this year if the Pumas are going to continue to play with the kind of passion they have brought into the opening two rounds.
Last year, they defeated the Blue Bulls and the Lions and will take heart from the knowledge that both games in the opening two rounds might have ended differently if circumstances had been slightly different.
"If the Pumas play to that potential every week, they will beat some sides in this competition," he confirmed.
"They will be disappointed that they didn't get the result, they were really up for it and wanted to beat us; it was just a very tough encounter."
Plumtree told SAPA that his team did not cross the advantage line as often as they did against the Bulls.
"We spent a bit of time sort of going backwards and we didn't get that quick ball at ruck time.
"So that meant our backs didn't really have a lot of ball to work with. We just weren't accurate enough and we have to put that down to pressure as well."
However, the Sharks boss did find some positives in the narrow win, adding: "It was good to come through it and sometimes you have to get through those ugly ones.
"The boys showed the character that is required, which is very important."
Plumtree is nurturing a vastly different group from his Super Rugby team, with a large bulk of his squad on national duty with the Springboks.
Preparations for this week's game have been hampered by the inclement weather which has struck KwaZulu Natal and Tuesday's training session was postponed.
Injuries have also affected the team although flanker Marcell Coetzee (nose) is expected to be fit while both French fly-half Frederic Michalak (hamstring) and centre Marius Joubert (ankle) will face late fitness tests.
"We're hoping we're going to get it (continuity) again, but if we don't, we'll go to Jacques-Louis Potgieter (at number 10), plus Meyer Bosman is pretty comfortable in that position as well.
"So we're lucky to have a little bit of depth in that position."
Potgieter has enjoyed little game time since his arrival from the Blue Bulls last year, but Plumtree is adamant he will rise to the challenge if given the opportunity against his former clubs.
"He hasn't had a lot of opportunity and he's up against his old team, so I'm sure he'll be up for it," the coach said.
Plumtree was also confident Joubert, who is only in his third week following his move from French club Clermont Auvergne, will acclimatise as the season progresses, but challenged the former Springbok star and centre partner Bosman to work harder on their midfield partnership.
"I’m happy with the way he's (Joubert) settling. But him and Meyer are yet to fire as a combination.
"We saw glimpses of it over the weekend, they're both big boys and when they start combining, running off each other, I think we're going to see the real benefits.
"We haven't got there yet, but they both know what I want. It's just about making sure they come up with it, it's their responsibility.
"If they want to be a force in the Currie Cup this year, they've got to work hard together as a partnership. And that's their challenge."