Currie Cup: Plumtree set on sharks keeping focus

2010-09-01 00:00

SHARKS coach John Plumtree is hoping that tall lock Alistair Hargreaves will be fit and ready for the big Currie Cup game against the champion Blue Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday night.

Three of the Sharks’ top four locks, Hargreaves, Ross Skeate and Gerhard Mostert, are nursing injuries.

“Alistair Hargreaves didn’t train on Monday, but we are hoping that he will be much better on Thursday and will then be available for the weekend. But he is still a concern for me.”

The good news is that fullback Louis Ludik, after a week’s rest with concussion, and hooker Bismarck du Plessis (ankle) will be ready.

Plumtree said he had been impressed by Bismarck du Plessis’s comeback from a serious neck injury, which required surgery.

“For a hooker to come back from a nasty injury like that is outstanding. He worked really hard, lost weight, gained muscle and he’s in great nick. He worked hard on his conditioning over the last three months and he’s ready to play rugby, that’s for sure.”

Plumtree said that he had watched former Springbok flyhalf Andre Pretorius in a weekend club game in Durban and had been encouraged.

“He could play some part in our match 22 this week, but I’m not quite sure how I will use him yet. He’s worked really hard to get back to full fitness and I want him to enjoy himself now and we’ll see what he can offer us as a group. He’s got marvellous skills and heaps of experience.”

Reflecting on the weekend win over Griquas, Plumtree said the Sharks’ “intent was outstanding”.

“We still let ourselves down at times and were a bit loose, which allowed them to stay in touch on the scoreline. But we played some outstanding rugby.”

He said that some of the decision-making behind the gain-line [to run or kick] “were not always the right ones and that needs attention”.

The players, he said, were looking forward to the trip to Loftus.

“The Blue Bulls games are always special. We enjoy playing them and they enjoy playing us. Clashes are always pretty titanic. Both teams have big sets of ball runners and I’m sure it will be pretty intense.

“Playing at Loftus is always a big challenge and the boys will be excited from a motivational perspective. They will be hurting a bit after the weekend [when they lost to the Pumas] and they possibly got distracted with the off-field incident with Bees Roux.

“But I’m sure they will be pretty fired up, particularly in their current situation after a couple of losses.”

He said he was wary of the dangers of the Sharks, seven ahead on the log, being written up in the media.

“I’ve been in this situation heaps in my coaching career and not got the ultimate prize at the end. Our greatest challenge is to make sure we don’t get distracted by outside influences and by believing what’s written in the press.”

He said that some of the praise was premature and this could distract the younger players and cost the Sharks points. Western Province, he added, were possibly derailed by their own press.

“The players have been warned if they get distracted, and come up with poor performances, they will pay with selection. This is professional sport and we do have selection options. The players are paid to do a job and we’re pretty determined to refocus after each performance.”

The difference between the top six sides, he added, is not great and if individuals are just slightly off the team could be hurt.

“We have to control the things we can, like physical and mental preparation. This is a tough competition,” Plumtree said.

Saturday’s game against the Blue Bulls kicks off at 7.10 pm and South Africa’s top referee, Jonathan Kaplan, will be in charge.

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