The suspension of Australian referee Paul Marks from the Vodacom Super 14 refereeing panel did not come early enough to help the Sharks, who have decided to put last week’s nightmare in Sydney behind them.
Marks made a couple of dubious calls against the Sharks in the match against the Waratahs, and probably robbed them of victory when he failed to award a penalty try when Kurtley Beale deliberately knocked down a pass to unmarked Ryan Kankowski in the final minutes.
SA Rugby referee manager Andre Watson has subsequently said it should have been a penalty try.
Sharks coach John Plumtree has told reporters that he wants to put the issue behind him as “the Super 14 competition is too tough and unforgiving and if you dwell on what is in the past you end up getting left behind”.
However, he must have afforded himself a rueful smile when he learned that Marks, who also came up with an indecipherable decision when he penalised Jannie du Plessis at a late attacking lineout, has been suspended indefinitely from the Super 14. It illustrates that Marks’ bosses also think he erred last week.
The immediate focus now though for the Sharks is Saturday’s clash with the Brumbies in Canberra, and Plumtree is determined that his team improve the discipline that has gone walkabout for much of this season and which has repeatedly cost them.
Starting in the opening match against the Chiefs, when first John Smit and then Bismarck du Plessis were yellow carded, the Sharks have repeatedly been reduced to 14 or even 13 men. It cost them against the Chiefs, who scored the winning points when Du Plessis was off the field.
Du Plessis was benched for the following game, and the word from Durban was that Plumtree was not happy with the Springbok hooker’s discipline. Now it is going to be interesting to see if Plumtree imposes any sanction against Du Plessis’ brother, Jannie, for the callous “trip” that saw him rightfully sent from the field in the first half in Sydney.
Plumtree read the riot act to his men on Monday night as they began the buildup to the Brumbies game, and he did not hold back, telling his players that if they transgressed again, they would basically be on the next plane home.
“I told them that if any of them were yellow carded again on tour they could expect to get a red card from me. Our discipline used to be one of our strengths and we have allowed it to slip, we need to pick it up again and some harsh words had to be said.”
Of course, the Sharks front-row has been involved in a game of musical chairs when it comes to selection all season as Plumtree tries to satisfy the need to give both Bismarck du Plessis and Smit game time at hooker. So if Jannie du Plessis is out of the team for the Brumbies game, it won’t necessarily be because of his transgression in Sydney.
Ironically, last year there was pressure on Plumtree to give Smit game time at tighthead prop as it was deemed to be in the national interests at the time as that was where Springbok coach Peter de Villiers wanted to field him in the series against the British and Irish Lions.
It is understood that has changed this season, as the Boks have taken cognisance of how much better the scrum went when Smit was returned to hooker with BJ Botha at tighthead in the final test of 2009 against Ireland in Dublin. It is anticipated Smit will wear the No 2 at international level again this year.