Durban - John Plumtree was a proud man after watching his Sharks side claim a stunning come-from-behind victory over the Free State Cheetahs in their Currie Cup clash in Durban on Saturday night.
The coastal team had trailed by 15 points at the interval, before three tries in the last 20 minutes helped complete a battling 34-32 win at Kings Park.
It was a memorable performance from the hosts and highlighted the character of the players, whose heads would have dropped dramatically after they conceded two tries in four frantic minutes prior to the half-time siren, when Sarel Pretorius and Raymond Rhule went over.
“The two tries they scored just before half-time were quite soft and we didn’t really deserve to be down by that much,” Plumtree said after the match.
“I thought we did okay in the first half, but then it was a lot of comeback rugby in the second half.
“The boys managed to do that and I was proud of them. The team was well led tonight, they kept going the whole time. It was what we’d asked for, which was great.”
The Sharks boss also hailed the influence of the returning Keegan Daniel - the regular captain of the side - who was included after being axed from the Springbok squad for the Rugby Championship's Australasia leg earlier in the week.
“I thought Keegan Daniel was outstanding tonight,” Plumtree said.
“I think he deserves a special mention.
“He’s been through a lot this week and coming back and playing for his province the way he did was outstanding.
“I thought he was a huge influence out on that field tonight, just his work rate, he just carried for us, he tackles, he did so much tonight.
“Getting over that disappointment of missing out on Springbok selection isn’t easy and what he did was fantastic.”
Having trailed 21-6, the Sharks hit back immediately after the break via a Riaan Viljoen try, before Nico Scheepers once again threatened to take the game away from the home side when he went in for the Cheetahs’ third try.
Plumtree’s side brought themselves back into the match with winger Odwa Ndungane scoring a brace of tries within six minutes to leave them five points behind the Free Staters.
Centre Meyer Bosman, who also scored 14 points with the boot, then added a bonus-point try with four minutes left in the match to snatch the win.
“The boys knew that we could do it, it was just a couple of tries and we were back in the game,” Plumtree added.
“But the Cheetahs defensively were pretty good tonight. They shut us down from going wide early and we had to show a little more patience.
“When we attacked them up the middle of the field we got some good gains.
"We changed tactically and it worked. But we still had to get those tries to get close and get the win.
"We did that with a few minutes to go.”
In the day's other result, Western Province crushed the Blue Bulls with a convincing 42-6 victory in Cape Town, picking up their second win of the Currie Cup season and moving into second place in the log standings.