Plumtree steers clear of panic

2012-03-04 14:36

Cape Town - A 46-year-old veteran of the Super Rugby landscape, Sharks coach John Plumtree is hardly going to be weeping into his breakfast cereal over his charges’ two-match winless start to the 2012 campaign.

The New Zealander knows that while two away derby defeats - the Bulls and Stormers in successive weeks was always going to represent a taxing beginning - do not represent a desired return, a pair of Durban dates next up, against the Lions and Reds respectively, could be just the tonic the doctor ordered.

Of course neither will be easy, given that the Lions are the very outfit who trumped them rather unceremoniously in the Currie Cup final last year and the Reds are the defending champions of Super Rugby, but a revenge triumph in the first of those assignment, especially, ought to suddenly kick-start the Sharks to a healthy degree.

They did have the consolation of a losing bonus point at both Loftus and then Newlands on Saturday night, and are currently playing without a significant group of stalwarts, including some of their most revered ball-carriers and general “grunt” providers in the pack.

The Sharks, pretty much forced into fielding a XV geared more for mobility and fluidity, rather surprised the hosts - especially in a first half which they really should have finished more than three points to the good - with the width of their play, where Springbok left wing Lwazi Mvovo looked particularly
hungry for involvement and was so nearly put away to the try-line on a couple of occasions.

But there was always likely to be a second-half “response” from the unflappable and educated Stormers, which got them over the line in an all-penalties game that could just as easily have gone the other way instead of 15-12 to the Capetonians.

Plumtree, while clearly disappointed not to have prevailed under the circumstances, could hardly be blamed for lauding the “good effort”, as he put it, from his injury-hit outfit.

“That yellow card (to otherwise hard-grafting lock Ross Skeate) and the penalties against us in the second half cost us ... we will have to look at them.”

Diplomatically toward referee Mark Lawrence, Plumtree said he felt some of the transgressions were “a bit touch and go” and, as so many coaches do, simply lamented “interpretation” as a potential factor on the night.

He was upbeat on some fronts, and saw fit to single out, among his troops, dynamic young flank Marcell Coetzee, who fronted up superbly on a night when the Sharks were without other possible loose forward options like Ryan Kankowski, Willem Alberts and the adaptable Jean Deysel.

“Marcell was excellent for us tonight ... probably the best loose forward on the field. It’s fantastic for South African rugby that there are still such good youngsters coming through in these positions,” Plumtree said, simultaneously mentioning also the names of Stormers players Siya Kolisi and Nick Koster.

The Sharks lineout mostly functioned better against the Stormers than it did at Loftus a week earlier, although Plumtree may be concerned that when he introduced Springbok incumbent tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis off the bench in the second half, presumably for intended impact, the home side actually produced a couple of key, dominant shoves in the set scrums.

Neither side was especially impressive in the important areas of scrumhalf and flyhalf, and although Pat Lambie produced a few clever little touches at No 10, a lobby of Sharks supporters and observers probably still believes Frederic Michalak should operate back in that slot rather than No 9, with Lambie reverting to fullback.

“How do you turn around your current log position?” Plumtree was asked, a little unscientifically, by one hack just before he fled the pretty blunt, short-lived media gathering.

“Easy, we’ve just got to win,” he replied.

The Sharks only start to have genuine problems, you would think, if they also trip up (Durban, Saturday, 17:05) against the Lions ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing


  • Citizen - 2012-03-04 14:48

    sorry mate, despite a much improved performance, this little gig with Michalak aint working, more worrying is our second half lack of mongrel at the breakdown...great first half, poor goal kicking in the second and turnovers at the breakdown...Keegan cost us the game with ill discipline, he's not the right captain sorry bud. We are on a hiding to nothing on tour if this is all we got.....Too much experimentation with swopping Lambie to fullback JP at centre, come on so many guys out of position...another mid table finish this year..

      goyougoodthing - 2012-03-04 14:52

      I agree with you, especially about Keegan. Combine him and Bismark as the 'Captain and Vice' and discipline goes out the window. Fred at 9 is too slow, Lambie is running sideways at 10 and Jp isn't a 13. Other than that the backline is great. :-)

      goyougoodthing - 2012-03-04 16:30

      Thanks Andy, and I could say Pakuranga is full of dole bludgers, but I won't. Besides, aren't up quite late on a school night?

      David - 2012-03-04 21:22

      Why you trolling SA sites then Andy? May suggest you beware the South African threat to come. Meyer has some amazing new talent at his disposal: Elstadt, Etsebeth, Kolisi, Jantjies, Juandre Kruger, Hougard, Goosen, Mvovo, Marcell Coetzee (these are the ones I can name off hand) and lets not forget some equally talented guys in Bismarck, Ralapele, Bekker, De Jong, Alberts, Brussow, Burger (the list goes on). Meyer knows how to win and we certainly have the talent to do just that. I've noticed your sides are attempting drop goals now, not a bad tactic you've learnt from us lazy has-beens is it?

      Japjapjap - 2012-03-05 09:06

      lambi,.. should play with his sheep...

      David - 2012-03-05 11:46

      Where did Andy go? Maybe he's been called up for Black Caps, geez they need all the help they can get.

  • John - 2012-03-04 15:33

    Sharks always get bad calls from Lawrence. Is he perhaps related to the New Zealand referee of the year of the same name.

      malcolm.molver - 2012-03-04 16:13

      Agreed. Especially against the Stormers. We never do well when he's reffing. Having said that, that's not the reason we lost. Discipline is a major problem with this team.

      Kevin - 2012-03-05 07:06

      I think I saw Mark Lawrence getting treatment in the second half for cramp in his one arm. Could that be from giving penalties to only one side? He wasn't consistent in his interpretation and the Sharks definitely didn't get fair share.

      Dewald - 2012-03-05 12:08

      Siestog, alweer die ref se skuld, kyk die game, julle was "outplayed in die 2de helfte.

  • Andy - 2012-03-04 16:03


  • David - 2012-03-04 16:22

    Sort out our disciplne. Skeate stupidly diving on rucks and allowing himself to be yellow carded, not even 2 minutes earlier was he penalised for the exact same thing. And why was Daniel playing that ball on the Stormers side of the ruck. It wasn't out yet but even if it had been why take the risk and give the Stormers a kick at goals just minutes before times up? Much improved performance but still work to be done. Please Plum, more training between the ears for your troops.

      Christopher - 2012-03-04 16:57

      Best comment so far.

  • Jason - 2012-03-04 17:21

    I hear you guys but I think that the Sharks played pretty well and were unlucky not to trash my team. In the end between last week and this week, no one has crossed their line and at present the only team able to boast that I think. In addition they looked pretty hard on attack.

      Japjapjap - 2012-03-05 09:11

      these 2 teams played pathetic boring! &@#$ ..dont want to call it- rugby.

  • louis.langenhoven - 2012-03-04 17:42

    don't wanna say I told you so but I said it when Plumtree announced before the season opener that he is going to try all kindsa kinky player out of position nonsense that its not going to work...

  • Bootman - 2012-03-04 18:21

    John's tree has no plums.

      Boer - 2012-03-04 23:55

      AC has no cups.

  • lnaude - 2012-03-05 06:57

    Maybe the loss of a great captain has more impact on a franchise than one suspects.

  • Francois - 2012-03-05 07:53

    Assistant ref and Referee calls was bad both ways; did you see the penalty against the stormers for offside; Lawrence had his back to stormers backline and made a call from the assistant ref info in his ear; but TV footage shows clearly that the stormers backline is at least 1 meter within the off side line. Craig Joubert as the Nr 1 in the world was also very bad in the Bulls Cheetahs game.

      verweyc - 2012-03-05 09:01

      I think in general both teams did better on the disipline this weekend compared to last weekend. A few dicey calls from the assitant refs cost both teams. One thing I do want to mention, after the warning to Jean that a card is on the way for the stormers, they changed their attitude and made sure no more penalties related to that for quite some time. Think the stormers only had 4 penalties in total against them in the first half and another 3 in the second.

  • pete.rudder - 2012-03-05 09:02

    Can't put my finger on it but there's something missing in Plumtree's game plan. Too soon to panic? I don't think so somehow!

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