Plumtree: Win the ice-breaker
Gavin Rich - SuperSport
Johannesburg - Sharks coach John Plumtree is hopeful that the first win of the season for his team will give the players the confidence to grow their game and progress to the next level.
The Durban team host the champion Reds at Mr Price Kings Park in their fourth Vodacom Super Rugby match of the new season, and Plumtree reckons that the emphatic 32-20 win over the MTN Lions, with a bonus point for scoring four tries, will be the ice-breaker after a not so impressive start to the campaign.
“Hopefully it will be the case that we get better now that we have a win under the belt,” said Plumtree.
“When you are two-zip down in a tournament like this, as we were going into last week’s game, it does have an effect as it creates pressure. You want to stay away from losing more games consecutively. So we’re pleased that we beat the Lions as it eases some of that pressure. That little bit of extra pressure of having lost the Currie Cup final to the same side was also there last week.
“What was important was that we just had to get one win behind us. Now we can hopefully press forward and improve on all of our processes. There are some aspects we’re happy with in our game at the moment and some areas where we know we still need to improve. We have to tidy that up before the competition gets too much older.”
The Sharks leave for their tour on Sunday and that does up the ante for them to get a win over the Reds, who they beat when they last visited Kings Park during the Easter weekend of 2010. Indeed, the Reds haven’t won in Durban since their 6-5 win in 2004, a game still rated by some who were there as the most turgid game of rugby they have ever seen.
A lot has changed with the Reds since then, however, and under Ewen McKenzie they have progressed from strength to strength. The outside backs are once again a strength of their game, and you could probably say the same about the Sharks, so there shouldn’t be any lack of entertainment in Saturday evening’s game. Plumtree knows they will pose a different challenge to what the Lions did last week.
“The Reds will present us with something a little bit different and we need to be able to cope with that,” he said.
“They have plenty of speed out wide. If they get fast ball and we are numbers down, they will hurt us. Defensively we’ve got to be really smart this weekend. We’ve got to really take it to them physically. We’ve got to make sure that we spend time with the ball in hand and put them under pressure. It will need to be a good performance in all areas of our game.”
However rather than worry too much about the Reds, Plumtree says his men have had an intense focus on aspects of their own game that aren’t completely right.
“We’ve been focussing on our own game. We obviously have to look after some different threats each each week. They come in different positions, and we need to adjust to that, but we have to worry about our own game and we’re still not happy with aspects of it. When we can be happy with our defence and slightly more happy with our attack we will be able to settle down a bit.”
The Sharks hadn’t conceded a try in the first two matches of the year against the Bulls and the Stormers, but when they came up against the Lions, who are more adventurous in their approach to attack than the first two mentioned teams, they conceded two. Plumtree appears to have noted though that in both instances the tries came when the Sharks had eased ahead and should have squeezed the Lions out of the match.
“At times against the Lions we did go to sleep and let them get back into the game and you can’t allow that. We worked really hard to get into a good position and then took the foot off the pedal and allowed them back into the game. That stressed us so we’ve got to be more ruthless in that area.”