Province playing mind games, says Plum

2012-10-24 00:00

COACH John Plumtree said Western Province are playing mind games in blowing up his Sharks team as firm favourites for Saturday’s Currie Cup final at King’s Park.

Province coach Allister Coetzee started the talk within minutes of his team winning their Currie Cup semi-final against the Golden Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday night and he has not stopped since.

“We will be playing against the best side in South Africa in the final,” Coet­zee has said. “The Sharks are an unbelievable side. To hold out the Bulls to get only three points is quite telling and it will take an extraordinary effort to beat them.”

And yesterday the Province coach described Sharks flyhalf Pat Lambie as “world-class, a very special player indeed, one of those really classy players who stand out because of the extra time they have on the ball and their ability to win matches for their team”.

But Plumtree said at his weekly media briefing yesterday that he was not buying into the Cape Town talk.

“It’s a way of deflecting pressure for them to call us the favourites. Province will have their own expectations and they will be coming here to win. They are good enough to be here at this point, we respect that and we will go full out at them. They will be doing the same with us.”

He said that WP would target the Sharks’ lineout.

“They will have seen that our lineout did not function very well against the Bulls and they’ll look to put pressure on us, certainly with their driving maul.

“We’ve faced it a couple of times now, so we know what is coming.”

Plumtree said the way Province had finished at Ellis Park will have given them confidence coming to Durban.

“They were down and out with a couple of minutes to go, they got an opportunity and nailed it. They’ve spoken about the character in their team and that builds confidence. I know there is a lot of talk about us being favourites, we know this is going to be a real final, a real arm-wrestle. Certainly it isn’t going to be any easier than in the past.”

Plumtree said that selection would be easier for him now that the returning Springboks had been back in the Sharks set-up for a couple of weeks and they had all seen some action.

“We are all together now so there are fewer headaches. We feel for the players that will be left out, some who went through the whole campaign with us. Unfortunately, that is the way it is.”

He said there had been a major focus on reintegrating the Boks, but it had been made easier because the Sharks, unlike the Bulls and WP, had not been under pressure to avoid the relegation game. The Sharks had been in an easier position as log-leaders and could mix and match.

He said WP were not threatening in any one area, but were strong across the field, saying: “They have a really big forward pack, X factor all over the park, similar to what we faced in 2010.

“There is no one specific area we will be targeting. We know if we don’t play well ourselves, or our defence doesn’t function well as a group, that can really hurt us. If you look at the Habanas, Aplons, Pietersens, there are some really dangerous players.”

Plumtree said the Sharks had the edge in experience in the front-row where they had two Springbok prop (Jannie du Plessis and Beast Mtawarira) while Province will be fielding three U21s in Steven Kitshoff, Siyabonga Ntubeni and Frans Malherbe.

“There is definitely an age advantage for the Sharks and that is certainly an area WP will see us as having an advantage. But the beauty of rugby is that they will see that as a challenge.

“They will come up with a big performance and Jannie and Beast will have to come up with theirs.”

Plumtree is also looking to Lambie to again control the flow of the match from flyhalf. “He’s been going really well and he’s looked forward to the opportunity to get some regular game time and he has certainly used it to his benefit.

“Obviously it’s been great for us as a team that he’s come back and slotted straight back in and he’s been really easy to deal with and coach.”

Sharks captain Keegan Daniel said playing the final at home was a massive advantage. “We’ve only lost once at home this year [against the Super Rugby champion Chiefs] and the home crowd has a huge influence.

“But this is an opportunity for us to give back to our fans,” he added.

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