Cape Town - On a bleak night for the Sharks where they were comprehensively outplayed 26-0 by the Western Force there was one silver-lining being grabbed at by coach John Plumtree.
GALLERY: Sharks v Force
He admitted his team had been exposed by the Force, and that the manner his men had been outplayed had been an eye-opener, but he felt the experience might prove a galvanising experience for the team.
“Yes, I think it could be that, we certainly know what we have to work on now and put right,” said Plumtree in response to a question about whether the game might provide extra motivation for the Sharks when they clash with the Stormers in the next Neo Africa Tri-Series game at Newlands on Friday.
“We are disappointed to lose, particularly with the manner with which we lost, but this kind of tough pre-season game can prove invaluable. With respect to some of the teams we have played in pre-season games in the past, this was probably a much better exercise than we have had before.
“The Force are a strong team, and they exposed our weaknesses, showed us where we are falling short and need to improve. We got a lot more out of this game than we did out of playing in Witbank or Brakpan against lesser opposition like we have in our first hit-out in past years.”
Plumtree would be the first to admit though that the problems faced by the Sharks are manifold, and it is going to take a miracle to come up with a quick fix before Friday.
“They dominated us at the breakdowns, and that was where it started. Our backs could not get into the game because we had only 20% possession and for long periods of the game we were stuck with only 20% territory too. We were better when we made changes at half-time, but by then we were well behind at 19-0.”
The Force scored four tries to nil, the last coming in the final few minutes of the game and the first in the sixth minute. The Sharks pack was comprehensively outplayed by the Force, with Matt Dunning, packing down at tighthead for the Force, making a big impression in his battle with Springbok Beast Mtwarira.
Indeed, the manner in which the Springbok-laden Sharks pack was mangled by the Force was probably the biggest sobering fact of the night for Durbanites, and when John Smit came on as a tighthead in the second half he again found himself going backwards. On this early season evidence, the Sharks are going to have as big a problem trying to accommodate both Smit and Bismarck du Plessis as the Springboks did last year.
The Sharks did have greater direction and urgency once the first choices came on in the second period, but they still never threatened an organised Force defensive system and it is hard to recall instances where the Sharks were in a position where they looked like scoring.
Monty Dumond did not make glaring mistake at flyhalf and to be fair, when the forwards are being outplayed, it is hard to criticise a pivot. However, it was also not a night where he gave any impression that he could be the answer to the Sharks’ flyhalf problems.