Plumtree lauds 'brave' effort
Pretoria - Sharks coach John Plumtree summed-up his team's 26-23 victory over the Bulls on Saturday as a courageous team effort against one of the best sides in the competition.
The Sharks now have the daunting task of facing seven time Super Rugby champions the Crusaders in Nelson next week where they will again be underdogs away from home.
"It needed a special performance against a great side, especially at home in front of their crowd it was very brave - the boys were very courageous and we showed for 80 minutes that we can work as a group and that was the most pleasing thing," said Plumtree.
The men from Durban stood their ground as far as the physical exchanges were concerned while at the same time making sure that they deny Bulls skipper Victor Matfield the chance to dictate matters at the lineouts.
Plumtree said that particular set-piece (lineout) is the "heart" and "soul" of Bulls rugby and was happy that his men stuck to the set plan.
"To win up here we needed to complete that plan and it wasn't perfect at times, but you could see what we wanted to do and not giving the Bulls a lot of lineouts was important so we had to kick and then defend," he said.
"There is not one way to beat them, but however we decided to beat them we had to make sure that we were committed.
The decision to start French International Frederick Michalak ahead of regular flyhalf Patrick Lambie also paid off on the night.
"Fred (Michalak) showed his experience out there tonight and that was vital at a big stage like this," said Plumtree.
"A guy like Pat Lambie is going to learn a lot from Fred. His drop-goal was important and so was the way he controlled the game."
Beating a world class side like the Bulls in their backyard should also give the Sharks renewed confidence in their abilities following a few below par performances in recent matches.
"It (winning at Loftus) will give us a little bit of confidence.
"When we go to Nelson and face the Crusaders we are going to need that belief.
"We have won here before but talk is cheap, you've got to back it up.
"Against a great side like the Bulls, a full stadium, you've got to perform and everyone needs to front up and I think that was the big thing for me tonight."
Apart from the rewards the Sharks reaped by awarding Michalak the flyhalf berth, Plumtree would not single out any other players.
"I was really happy afterwards because I couldn't single anyone out," he said.
"Everyone had to dig deep and the Bulls had a lot to play for tonight." The Sharks coach also paid tribute to the Bulls stalwarts that made their final bow in Pretoria.
"Those guys have been great servants for the Bulls over the years and I'm sure they would have been pretty fired up before the game so to counter that is easy to talk about, but to do it is something different," said Plumtree.
Part of the team's success had to do with their decision to train at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Complex outside Phokeng near Rustenburg.
"I don't think there was a lot of people believing that we can beat the Bulls and you need to get away from that and get tight and that's what we did," Plumtree said.
"It worked nicely, but I'm only saying that because we won," he quipped.
The Sharks will be leaving for New Zealand on Tuesday night before arriving on Wednesday evening (local time).
Plumtree said that they will first regroup in Durban to asses the bruises his men picked up in their brutal battle against the Bulls.