‘Expect positive rugby’

2011-01-21 00:00

SOUTH African crowds can anticipate far more positive rugby from their teams in this year’s Super Rugby competition.

That is the view of Sharks coach John Plumtree as he looked ahead to the extended southern hemisphere competition, which will involve 15 teams and stretch over 19 weeks.

The Shark s open their campaign against the Cheetahs at King’s Park on February 19.

The Sharks took the Currie Cup title last year by playing a fresh and fast-moving brand of rugby and keeping the ball in hand rather than kicking for field position.

It was an All Black rather than South African style of rugby and Plumtree believes that the trend will be followed by the other local franchises in the Super 15.

“I think we’re going to see the South African sides being a lot more positive in terms of keeping ball because they’ll realise that, if they kick it away, they could spend a lot of time defending and that can drain the players.”

Plumtree said that in the modern game teams would pay a heavy price for playing conservatively.

“If you have to make a lot of tackles, if the count gets up to 200 a game, you know you’re going to wear yourself out eventually. I think sides are going to be forced to adapt. South African franchises will have to switch on and play positive rugby.”

The Sharks coach said that strict refereeing was key to providing an entertaining spectacle.

“As long as the breakdown area is refereed harshly, the game will grow in popularity. If the refs are hard at the breakdown it is a massive incentive to play the game more with the ball.”

He said that the emphasis at the breakdown will still remain on the tackler and those assisting him performing their roles correctly.

“But the attacking side, those cleaning out at the breakdown, will have to be accurate in what they do in keeping possession.

“The referees have said they are going to be tough on players going in and killing the contest at the breakdown. And I’m quite happy with that.”

But the quality of refereeing remained a concern, he added.

“Only the best referees will get it right, but there is so much to watch for at the breakdown. And you see it towards the end of a match, the side leading might kill the game by going through nine or 10 phases within the space of eight or nine metres, and kill off three minutes. You know all those clean-outs are not legitimate.”

Plumtree believes that for the first time in World Cup history the best attacking side will take the title in New Zealand this year.

“People will always say that defence wins games, but I think that now, if you find yourself behind, you will have to score tries and you can’t risk just booting the ball away.”

He did concede, however, that the conditions in New Zealand might not be conducive to a flowing, ball-in-the-hand approach.

“So it is still going to be important to be able to play both games.”

The Sharks are on a six-day training camp in Rustenburg this week and are based at the Bafokeng Sports Campus.

“It’s pretty much a case of working on what we have been doing over the previous two weeks in Durban and consolidating everything,” Plumtree said.

“We’ve done a lot of work on the set piece and our phase play and our options from there. We’ll be focusing on our structures and how we’re going to play from different areas of the field”

He said the team was “pretty settled”.

“While we have team activities most days, it is a working camp.”

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