Plumtree focused on beating Cheetahs

2012-07-09 00:00

SHARKS coach John Plumtree is concerned about the Sharks’ fragile temperament ahead of their final league outing of the Super Rugby season against the Cheetahs at King’s Park on Saturday.

The Sharks are in sixth spot following their excellent 32-10 win over the Bulls on Friday night and a four-try bonus point win over the Cheetahs will ensure they are involved in the play-offs. But the Sharks are still vulnerable. They are on 54 points alongside the Bulls, but the Reds and Hurricanes, both on 53, are in striking range if they stumble.

Ironically, Plumtree would certainly prefer to remain sixth rather than overtake the Bulls and finish fifth. The team in sixth spot will almost certainly travel to Canberra to meet the third-placed Brumbies, while the franchise ending fifth seems destined for the long haul to face the Crusaders in New Zealand.

Don’t shout it from the rooftops, but the Bulls, who meet the Lions in the final game on Saturday night (and directly after the Sharks host the Cheetahs), could even be in a position to manipulate the standings by winning without a bonus point to end sixth rather than fifth.

But that is well into the future and, for the moment, Plumtree’s mind is on beating the Cheetahs. The Sharks’ unseemly crash to the Lions just a week after impressively downing the Stormers is still fresh in the memory.

“The challenge for us is to make sure that the temperamental animal doesn’t come out again [as it did before the Lions game] and that we front up against the Cheetahs.

“The Reds and Hurricanes are still in it and if it’s all even after next week’s round of matches, we could miss out, so next week is a huge match for us.

“The Cheetahs always play well against us and we’ve never had an easy one against them.”

Plumtree said that the challenge for the Sharks against the Bulls was playing well after a long break.

“We had new faces and new combinations but I was really pleased with the way the boys applied themselves. We wanted to be ambitious and speed the game up, to up the tempo, but in order to do that, we had to really support each other. Another big challenge going the distance after many of the guys hadn’t played at that intensity and there were some tired bodies afterwards.”

He said facing the Bulls’ Bok line­out had been a major challenge. “We had to change everything with our lineout, with Ryan Kankowski taking over the calling and I thought he was outstanding.”

He said the Sharks had succeeded in surprising the Bulls with their strategy.

“But they never went away and they did put us under pressure. The pleasing thing was keeping them down to just one try.”

Plumtree said he hoped Willem Alberts and Pat Lambie would be fit for the Cheetahs game. “Pieter-Steph [du Toit] did his ankle and we’re hoping it isn’t bad. There are no other injuries worries.”

It was a excellent effort by the Sharks and the form of the Du Plessis brothers, Kankowski, Marcell Coetzee, halfbacks Charl McLeod and Freddie Michalak, and wing JP Pietersen was compelling on an impressive night for Sharks rugby.

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