Sharks fired up for semi

2010-10-13 00:00

MATCHING the Blue Bulls in the physical battle will be decisive in Saturday’s Currie Cup semi-final at King’s Park, Sharks head coach John Plumtree said yesterday.

Plumtree said the outcome of every game against the Bulls depends on the forward exchanges.

“It’s always the same against Bulls. If you don’t match them in terms of physicality, you are never going to win.

“When we have done that, we have won and I’m hoping we will be able to gain some parity up front, win some go-forward ball and get our game going. That’s what Saturday’s semi-final is going to be all about.”

Plumtree said he had been “really impressed by the Western Province loosies” in the Sharks’ disappointing loss at Newlands at the weekend.

“We just couldn’t match their intensity. It’s always easier to win your ruck ball when you’re getting momentum and we didn’t.

“We missed a big ball-carrier like Willem Alberts and Keegan Daniel’s ability on attack.

“Our Boks were also a little rusty and I hope that on Saturday we get Bismarck (du Plessis) and Beast (Mtawarira) carrying it up more and then the breakdowns become easier to win because you get across the advantage line.

“But everyone has to step up.”

The Sharks coach said that a clash with the Currie Cup and Super 14 champions is motivating rather than intimidating for his players.

“It’s an opportunity for guys like Alistair Hargreaves and Steven Sykes to really step up their games against the likes of Bakkies Botha, Danie Rossouw and Victor Matfield.

“They have a real opportunity to impress. The lineouts and re-starts are big ball-winning areas and there is going to be pressure on the two locks to win our own ball.”

Plumtree said the impressive rugby played by the Sharks in topping the Currie Cup log would give the players confidence.

“If we get possession and hold on to the ball, we can put the Bulls under pressure. But by the same token, we need to look after their physicality.”

The coach said that managing and motivating the players this week would be easy.

“The players know what’s at stake and they’ve put in a lot of hard work over the past 14 weeks. Now it all comes down to one game and we know what we’re up against.

“The Bulls are a champion side, but that also provides us with an opportunity because they will be under pressure to perform.

“They are the fancied team, the one everyone is talking about, and my guys are really looking forward to the chance to have a crack at them.”

Plumtree said the Sharks would not divulge their game plan “but we will play ambitiously”.

“The decision-makers, like Pat Lambie, Charl Mcleod and Louis Ludik, have to make the right choices [whether to kick or run] on the day.

“The conditions could determine how we want to play but there could be a lot of rain this week and things can change.

“We might not have the same firepower in some areas as the Bulls so we have to play our own [high-tempo] game.”

Plumtree said the Sharks have no new injury concerns and Springbok wing JP Pietersen, recovering from a hamstring strain, could come into contention while flanks Daniel and Alberts will be back.

The SA Rugby Union announced yesterday that former Pietermaritzburg referee Craig Joubert will handle the Currie Cup final on October 30.

Marius Jonker, another Pietermaritzburg product, will referee the Sharks-Bulls play-off in Durban at 2.30 pm on Saturday with Mark Lawrence in charge of the Province-Free State semi-final at Newlands (5 pm).

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