Plumtree satisfied with Sharks

2009-02-05 00:00

THE Sharks blew hot and cold, but still outclassed a game Bulls second-string side 39-9 in their final Super 14 pre-season friendly played at King’s Park last night.

Playing to a small crowd on a cool evening, and under grey skies, it was more a training run than the intense dress rehearsal that the Sharks needed, but coach John Plumtree was satisfied with the outing.

“Credit to the Bulls. They gave us the physical contest we needed at the breakdown and they didn’t stand back. It was exactly what we needed.”

Plumtree conceded that some of the Sharks’ rugby was disjointed and they often lacked shape in attack, and their lack of accuracy while in possession was his biggest concern.

“We still have some big boys to come back to the forwards and I think the rugby will improve when the excitement levels are lifted by the real thing.”

Plumtree praised the efforts of flank Skholiwe Ndlovu, certainly the most committed of all the forwards, while he was also encouraged by the scrummaging of the makeshift front-row.

JP Pietersen and Frans Steyn had a busy evening, but the backplay was disappointing and Plumtree blamed the slow ball from the breakdowns for the lack of cohesion.

The only slight injury concern was to Stefan Terblanche who left the field holding his shoulder after being taken out in the air.

The Sharks, winning a stream of possession from the start, had to wait 10 minutes for the opening score.

Centre Frans Steyn bashed over the gain-line to set up the attacking ruck and flyhalf Ruan Pienaar dummied into the gap and stepped inside the cover to score. He added the conversion (7-0) and added a second 10 minutes later when hooker Craig Burden was driven over after Ryan Kankowski’s lineout take (14-0).

The Bulls made their first sortie into the Sharks’ quarter after 24 minutes and flyhalf Francois Brummer kicked the first of three penalties.

The Sharks, with all the ball and territory but faced by spirited defence, frittered away attacking chances with poor option-taking and errors in handling, and they changed over 14-3 in front.

Plumtree made a series of changes at the break — Rory Kockott, Adrian Jacobs, Ruan Pienaar, Kankowski and Johann Muller were among those who departed — and the Bulls started the second half with more conviction.

Brummer kicked a second penalty (14-6), but it was as close as they came with the Sharks improving as the newcomers settled. Flank Jacques Botes’s neat pass set up a try for replacement scrumhalf Ross Cronje, Steyn dribbled through from 40 metres to score and then Odwa Ndungane, after combining superbly with JP Pietersen and Luzuko Vulindlu, crossed in the corner.

In six minutes the Sharks had scored 17 points (31-9).

There was time for Steyn to land a left-footed drop goal and for Burden to return for a second try on the final hooter (31-9).

It certainly was not a showing that will win a Super 14 game, but as Plumtree said, the big occasion will bring the intensity and excitement to the Sharks.

Scorers:

Sharks — tries to Burden (2), Steyn, Pienaar, Ndunganeand Cronje. Conversions by Pienaar (2) and Steyn who also kicked a drop.

Bulls — three penalties by Brummer.

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