Sharks ‘have job to do’ to make it to a play-off spot — Plumtree

2012-05-01 00:00

WHILE there are many observers who believe that the Sharks’ Super Rugby challenge is over for another season, coach John Plumtree is not among them.

The Sharks, who will be fresh after a weekend bye, face the fifth-placed Highlanders at King’s Park on Saturday. The New Zealanders have arrived in Durban with their heads high after an unlikely 36-33 win over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday night.

The Sharks have won four of their nine games, and are currently lying seventh on the log, but Plumtree believes his squad can still challenge for a quarter-final place.

The Sharks coach is not burying his head in the sand and yesterday conceded that his players would have to start, and keep, playing well, week in and out for the month of May, to nail down a play-off spot.

“We are in seventh spot with seven games to go and we still have to play the Bulls and Stormers here at home.

“If we can win consistently now, you never know what can happen.

“The top six teams make the play-offs, and there is plenty of rugby left, so we are not out of it yet.”

Plumtree said they could not assume that because they were playing a home they would win — as they found out against the Chiefs.

“We’re going to be playing against some top sides at home and we’re also playing the Lions and Cheetahs away.

“Those are also going to be big Tests for us. We have a massive five games coming up before the June break, but our main focus right now is on the Highlanders.

“If we want to do something in this competition, we know that we have to be successful over the next five games before that June break. This is the crunch period.”

Plumtree said they wanted to avoid a repeat of last year when they finished sixth and had to travel to play the Crusaders at home.

“It’s not just about relying on winning our remaining five games at home. We have a job to do, home and away, if we want to be where we aim for. Playing a quarter-final in New Zealand is no fun. We have to set our sights higher than that.”

He said that reaching the play-offs in such a tough competition would still be a commendable effort.

“But we are talking about going further than that. We believe in ourselves, we want to do well.

“If we can sort out some small things internally and become more accurate, if we can get our big players playing really well and improve that teamwork by a couple of percent, then I think we’ll be alright.”

Plumtree pointed out that the Sharks had lost five games, but picked up bonus points in four of them in close finishes.

“We’re not far away, but we need to keep fighting on, believing in each other and working really hard for each other. That’s going to be the key.”

The Sharks coach said that he had a couple of players fighting for places in the team after returning from injury. A number had played in Stellenbosch at the weekend and helped the Sharks XV beat the Pampas XV in a Vodacom Cup match to secure a home quarter-final against the Blue Bulls .

“Our injury list is getting shorter and shorter. Beast Mtawarira, Ryan Kankowski, Odwa Ndungane and Marius Joubert all played in Stellenbosch and [wing] Lwazi Mvovo is another who is ready for selection.”

He said the players and coaching staff had reviewed their narrow defeat against the Chiefs last time out.

“We were desperately disappointed with our accuracy against them.

“We have to make sure that we take our opportunities and that’s something that will be a big focus of ours in preparation this week.”

The bottom line, he said, is that the players have to improve.

“The challenge has been dished out to the players. There are certain things, little things, they need to get right and we’re hoping will make a difference at the end of the day.”

Saturday’s game kicks off at 5.05 pm and Steve Walsh, the New Zealand referee based in Australia, will handle the contest.

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