Vodacom Super Rugby
Sharks enter vital period
John Plumtree (Gallo Images)
Durban - John Plumtree has conceded that the pressure is mounting on his Sharks side as they look to turn around the battling start to their Super Rugby campaign in round three over the weekend.
The Durban franchise lost their opening two matches of the season to the Bulls and Stormers respectively, both away from home.
This weekend they come up against the Lions and it's a clash the coach described as “a massive game” in the early context of the campaign.
“It’s a massive game for us, both these home games are really big,” Plumtree said on Tuesday, referring to the match against the Currie Cup champions and the one to follow at home to the Reds on March 17.
“If you want to do well in this competition, you’ve got to do really well at home.
“We’ve picked up two points away from home, which could prove to be valuable at the end of the day, but winning home games are vital in this competition.
“We know it’s hugely important for us.”
Plumtree said he expected the Lions, who beat the Cheetahs and lost to the Hurricanes in their two games, to also come out strongly in a match that is a rerun of last year’s Currie Cup final that was won by the men from Johannesburg.
“We’re two zip down and are looking for a win and they’ve got a win and had a loss,” he said.
"It’s a conference game as well, so it’s important for both teams, but I guess they’ll know there’s a fair bit of pressure on us.
“So they’ll expect us to be desperate.”
The availability of Springbok duo Willem Alberts and Odwa Ndungane (both suffering shoulder injuries) is still unclear, while Tim Whitehead (groin) will also only discover whether he will be fit to play later in the week after further medical assessments.
The Sharks boss felt his current squad was stronger than the one that did so well in the Currie Cup last year, insisting they were yet to hit top gear.
“I think this side is a better one than we had in the Currie Cup, but we just haven’t had a result,” he said.
“I’ve got a lot of faith, belief and confidence in them.
“It’s just important that they do it for each other as well. We’re not far away from clicking.”
After losing 18-13 to the in a dour opening match, the Sharks looked much better in their 15-12 loss to the Stormers.
Plumtree added that he was much happier in that game, saying: “Our discipline has let us down in important parts of the game.
“Some of the things that we could control, we didn’t in Cape Town and Pretoria as well.
“So we realise that there’s vital set-pieces or vital moments in the game that we’ve got to nail. If we can do that, then we’ll be better off.
“We’ve just let ourselves down by putting ourselves under pressure and that hasn’t helped our course. Hopefully it will all work for us this week.”