‘More to this team than defence’

2009-03-24 00:00

Sharks coach John Plumtree gives a thumbs up to the 75% success rate The Sharks achieved on tour, but feels that his team are not quite where they should be, and despite an outstanding defensive record, feels that they should also be doing some attacking.

“Three out of four is fantastic; four out of four would have been better,” he said. “But in hindsight, it’s always going to be hard to win every game. We lost our way a little that week against the Reds and we got hurt. It just shows the nature of this competition, if you’re off your game five or 10%, it can hurt you.”

In assessing the defensive nature of their game, and while defence wins games as the match against the Western Force demonstrated, Plumtree said that halfway into the competition, there is more to his team than defence, but they need to produce it.

“We are doing way too much defending, we probably made 750 tackles on tour, that is just too many and the risk of injuries goes up, so we have to attack a little more. A positive is that we’re close to the top of the log and haven’t yet shown our hand on attack.”

This weekend, his team hosts the Brumbies at King’s Park and it’s difficult to believe that this is only the second home game the Sharks have played all season. For the visiting Australians, Durban has not been a particularly happy hunting ground. They have won just once in five attempts, but you only have to look back two years for their only victory here.

The Brumbies came off defeat at the hands of the Cheetahs that year, The Sharks were coasting along nicely and the applecart was famously upset. This year follows a similar pattern with the Sharks in second place and the Brumbies having slipped up against the Lions last week. Certainly they will look to make amends while the Sharks will aim to maintain an enviable home record, one that extends to that particular match two years ago — the last time they were beaten at home in a pool match.

Plumtree admitted that home ground history doesn’t count for much — it’s all about what happens on the day. “That hasn’t come up much in conversation,” he said of the Sharks’ impressive home record, “but if we have a big crowd in, it helps. Playing at home means the energy levels go up, which will help this week because of the short turnabout.

“Physically, we have to arrive after making nearly 200 tackles against the Force, especially with the Brumbies under pressure and wanting to get their campaign back on track.”

The Sharks will continue to make do without Jean Deysel and Ruan Pienaar, injured on tour and expected back for the Crusaders game, while the Brumbies find themselves with a few injury woes.

“Nearing the halfway mark, it’s getting to the stage of the competition where depth gets tested and like them, it’s happening to us, so the stronger your squad, the better you will be,” said Plumtree.

The Brumbies’ loss last weekend saw them slip to ninth on the log. A win this weekend will put them back in the running, while another loss could be devastating to their campaign. “If you can win three or four games in a row you’re doing well in this tournament, and it’s great, creating a lot of interest,” said the Sharks coach. “But similarly, you lose one or two and suddenly you’re playing catch-up.”

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