Plumtree fed up with talk of rifts

2010-03-16 00:00

SHARKS head coach John Plumtree has again angrily dismissed reports that there is a rift in his squad.

The Sharks have lost five successive Super 14 matches and Plumtree has spent much of the past month refuting claims, largely in the Afrikaans media, of unhappiness in the squad.

Speaking from Queenstown in New Zealand yesterday, ahead of Saturday’s game against the Highlanders in Dunedin, Plumtree said that he was irritated by these unfounded stories “particularly as the opposite is true”.

“This is all generated by sensational talk in certain sections of the media. The players are really happy and are working hard to try to put things right,” he said.

“Of course, we’re not happy with the string of defeats and where we are on the log, but the team have accepted that they are responsible for that. Whoever is selected against the Highlanders this weekend, they know what they have to do.”

Plumtree emphasised that the Sharks remain a united team.

“I’m sick of hearing and reading this rubbish. We are losing, and like any other team the confidence takes a knock. But to say that there is a rift is just mischief-making. It is incorrect and it irritates me because there is no foundation to these stories.”

The New Zealand-born coach said the Sharks were simply not playing well enough to turn narrow losses into wins.

“We had opportunities to score more points [against the Brumbies] on the weekend but we turned over possession on attack…

“Our defence was really good, apart from a couple of situations right on the goal line when we let them in. But we’re letting the opposition off by getting field position and then not converting that into points.”

Plumtree said that games were being lost in the closing minutes because of a lack of composure.

“We just have to get smarter. When you are a couple of points up, you don’t want to be giving away penalties in the final few minutes.

“The game is all about pressure and composure. At the end of the day, we didn’t show enough composure to win that game.”

Last year the Sharks won their first four Super 14 games — three on the road — and Plumtree said a number of factors had changed since then. He said there was no single reason but the disruptions at scrumhalf, flyhalf and inside centre had made a significant impact.

“Last year we had the same 9, 10 and 12 [Rory Kockott, Ruan Pienaar and Frans Steyn] for the first four games, but from the very start this season we have been disjointed in that pivotal area and we have not been able to get our game going.

“All the top teams at the moment have outstanding combinations in those positions,” he added.

He said are were positives to take from the string of narrow losses.

“We’re pretty happy with our defence and we’ve now lost four games by less than five points. Our only heavy defeat was against the Crusaders, and we were in that game until the last 10 or 12 minutes.

“There are always going to be positives to take out of a contest, but it is frustrating that each week we’re in contention but still not able to get the result — and this has put us under pressure.”

The Sharks flew in to Queenstown, a holiday resort on New Zealand’s South Island, on Sunday. The team will be based there until Saturday’s game against the Highlanders.

 

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