‘How Bulls handle the pressure is key,’ says Plumtree

2009-09-09 00:00

THE Blue Bulls’ ability to handle the pressure could decide Saturday’s Currie Cup match against his team at Loftus, Sharks coach John Plumtree said yesterday.

Plumtree said that the Bulls’ back-to-back defeats — against the Lions and Western Province — had left them fighting for a semi-final spot.

“The Bulls are pretty desperate now and they could end up scrambling for top four position if they lose their third game in a row. They will want to get their campaign back on track and so how they handle the pressure on Saturday is key,” he said.

The Sharks head coach said that the Bulls were hard enough to beat at Loftus “even when they are not desperate so we know we have to front-up.”

He said he wanted to go to Loftus with an attacking mindset.

“We don’t want to go up there and die wondering. We’ll implement strategies and plan to give the ball a bit of width and stress them a bit out wide. That’s possibly how we can beat them, but we first have to match them physically.”

The Sharks, with Springbok commitments and injuries, are running short of props and Plumtree is waiting until tomorrow to make a final decision on the fitness of prop Patric Cilliers, who injured a knee against Boland.

“Pat will see a surgeon to see if the knee structurally will be able to handle the game.”

He said that the Sharks might have to call up someone like U21 prop Julian Redlinghuys if Cilliers is unable to play.

“The Bulls were under some pressure at scrums at Newlands and WP didn’t do that to us, so that’s interesting. But scrumming is not everything and they will test us in plenty of other areas. They have some big runners and they’re good defensively so we will have to work hard.”

Plumtree believes the Sharks have improved on the rugby they played last year when the Boks were away.

“I’m proud of this group of players. We set ourselves the goal of getting to the top four before our Boks got back and we should achieve that. It would be an outstanding achievement if we were on top when they return.”

Plumtree said that other squads had started in better shape without the many Bok disruptons.

“But the youngsters have been great in this environment and they’ve learned a lot.Wing Lwazi Mvovo is playing better, more consistent rugby, and looking comfortable and so is Chris Jordaan. Swannie [Riaan Swanepoel] is a kingpin in the midfield, Andries Strauss is playing some of the best rugby of his career, Charl McLeod is putting pressure on Rory Kockott and Monty Dumond has been really good.

“So there have been some really nice stories to tell.”

Plumtree said the Boks, who return from New Zealand late on Monday, would be available for the Free State in Durban next weekend — “but they will be managed as some will play and some will need a break.”

He said that front-row Jannie du Plessis, John Smit and Beast Mtawarira “might be required and I’m sure that someone like Ryan [Kankowksi] will want to play.”

He said that the Sharks had been handed a Super 14 draw “from hell, but it is something we have done before.”

“The bonus is that we travel early in the competition so we get the best of the New Zealand weather. If we have a good tour and then a run of home games to come back to, who knows where we can end up. We will have a stronger squad than last year with the growth of players in the Currie Cup this year as well as some new signings, but it will be tough.”

 

Saturday’s game kicks off at 5.05 pm (SS1) and Jonathan Kaplan is the referee.

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