Vodacom Super Rugby
Defence huge factor: Plumtree
Durban - Sharks coach John Plumtree believes that defence will be the biggest factor when they face up to the Reds in their Super Rugby playoff match in Brisbane on Saturday.
"When it comes down to these types of games, your defence has to be on the money," Plumtree said ahead of the game.
"Defence is a huge factor in finals.”
Although the visitors have a much better recent record against their hosts, with a place in next week’s semi-final up for grabs, the Sharks are largely seen as the underdogs for the clash.
Plumtree’s men have won five out of their last six meetings against the Reds, but the defending champions are starting to peak at the right time as six successive wins saw them storm to victory in the Australian Conference.
The Sharks, who have also shown some good form in the second half of the competition, have six wins from their last seven, with the solitary blip coming in the form of a shock loss to the Lions.
They also showed some patchy form in their last regular season match against the Cheetahs when they had to come back from 15-6 down at half time to win 32-15 in Durban.
“We found ourselves behind the advantage line against the Cheetahs last week and, against the Reds, we can't afford to do that, we can't afford to give them any opportunities,” Plumtree said.
“This is a big game, a knock-out game, and you have to be very accurate in the way you play."
A significant factor to the game is the absence of Quade Cooper – the Wallabies flyhalf was suspended for one week after a high tackle on Berrick Barnes in their 32-16 win over the Waratahs last week.
Plumtree played down Cooper's unavailability and said the Reds would change their attacking plans a bit.
“But to be honest our approach for this game isn't about what the Reds are doing, our focus is on our own game," he said.
“We're without Frans Steyn and Pat Lambie so I guess that evens things out a bit.”
Steyn is ineligible for the remainder of the competition, while Lambie has an ankle injury.
The two sides have already met once this season when the coastal team triumphed 27-22 at Kings Park.
Plumtree felt that result was inconsequential as it happened early on in round four.
“It was a long time ago, they're a lot better now than they were then, but I think we are as well.
“This is a big game, there's home ground advantage for the Reds which is a big factor.
“They play very well at home and we have to make sure that we play to our own game plan, that we play with confidence and really take it to them.
"We don't want to be chasing them all day.”