Johannesburg - The Sharks are enjoying the sunshine of Wellington after travelling across the Tasman Sea in good spirits, but coach John Plumtree admits to wariness of the twin effects their defeat to the Cheetahs and players returning from injury will have on the Hurricanes.
The Sharks, fresh from their first away win over the Brumbies since 1998, face the Hurricanes in their third Super Rugby tour match in New Plymouth on Friday. While Wellington is clear at the moment, the Durbanites can anticipate a bumpy ride when they share a charter flight with the Hurricanes through to the match venue later in the week. The weather forecast predicts wet, stormy conditions and the Sharks might be in for a wet weather game.
But right now Plumtree is more concerned about the Hurricanes, and the impact that their defeat to the Cheetahs may have had on them.
“They are being given a hard time in their media and no doubt by their coach for the way they lost to the Cheetahs, and are being accused of underestimating a very good Cheetahs side,” said Plumtree.
“I think the Cheetahs may have made it very difficult for us in that a win has now become extremely important for the Hurricanes as they look to get back on track after an unexpected defeat. This is going to be an interesting match as both teams are locked closely together on the log, near mid-table. The winner will have the opportunity to forge ahead, the loser will have some work to do as they fall off the pace.”
The Hurricanes were without some key forwards in the match against the Cheetahs, and Plumtree reckons their return will bolster the hosts.
“Victor Vito is expected back for this game and he is massive for the Hurricanes from a leadership viewpoint,” said the Sharks coach, who used to coach the Wellington Lions in the NPC before moving to Durban in 2007.
“They were also without their experienced loosehead Ben May, as well as lock Jason Eaton. Both of those are influential forwards who are expected to play against us after missing the Cheetahs game.”
Plumtree said the mood in the squad was good after the win over the Brumbies, but this would be an important game in the way it could determine the Sharks outlook for the rest of the season.
“It was important for us to win in Australia before coming to New Zealand, and beating the team that is probably the best in the Australian conference at present did wonders for our confidence, but we know we still have plenty to work on,” he said.
Plumtree did not list the aspects of the game that need improvement but areas that are obvious are their tendency to concede points just after scoring themselves, the restarts and their approach to situations where they need to close games out.
There were times towards the end of the Canberra match where the Sharks looked uncertain as to whether they should shut the Brumbies out by keeping the ball or whether they should play for territory by kicking it. The uncertainty nearly cost them the match.