Sharks set sights on finishing fourth

2012-05-28 00:00

JOHN Plumtree and the Sharks have set their sights on at least a fourth-place finish in this year’s Super Rugby competition after beating the log-leading Stormers 25-20 in Saturday night’s derby at King’s Park.

The Stormers’ late rally denied the Sharks a fourth try for a bonus point while they earned themselves one. This has kept the Cape Town franchise five log points ahead of the Sharks, who will battle to overtake them with just three games remaining.

But Plumtree believes that the Sharks, with an away game against the Lions on Saturday, followed by home fixtures against the Bulls and Cheetahs in July, can still climb from sixth to fourth. This would give them a home quarter-final rather than having to trek to New Zealand for the playoffs.

The Sharks coach said his team’s clinical finishing in the first half had been impressive.

“We put them under pressure, forced them into errors and each time we visited their 22 in the first half, we came away with points.

“I’m really proud of the players because there was a lot of pressure on them. They also showed great character in their defence when the Stormers were on our line for 10 to 15 minutes.”

Plumtree paid tribute to the Stormers side.

“You’ve got to admire them; they just never go away. It shows you what character they’ve got. That’s why they’ve done so well in this competition.”

He said coping with the massive Stormers lineout had been a major challenge, but the Sharks scrum and the impact of their backrow were decisive features in the match.

Plumtree suggested that captain and number eight Keegan Daniel should be in the Springbok mix.

“He covers every position in the backrow and the statistics on the South African loose forwards show that. He’s consistently a top performer. He’s not a 110 kg loose forward, but he plays like one.

“Marcell (Coetzee) has also been simply outstanding this season and it was good to see Willem Alberts back in form.”

The Sharks coach was also delighted that the selection of Freddie Michalak at flyhalf and Pat Lambie at fullback had been successful.

“Freddie also played well against the Cheetahs and when that French confidence is high he is effective. He is enjoying his rugby and it shows.”

Plumtree said he was disappointed that the Sharks were unable to prevent the Stormers taking home a bonus point.

“It was frustrating because the second Stormers try came from an obvious forward pass…”

It was a strong team showing by the Sharks, and when they found their rhythm, and their big men, Bismarck du Plessis, Beast Mtawarira, Coetzee and Alberts, were rumbling forward, they looked a potent unit.

They will be disappointed that they did not build on the compelling form they showed either side of half time and there is a suggestion that they suffered because they opted to defend their lead rather than exploit it.

Stormers coach Alistair Coetzee admitted his team had been under the cosh for the second quarter, but had fought back with courage to dominate the second half.

“But all credit to the Sharks. They put us under pressure in the set pieces and we did not handle the high ball well.”

He said he was delighted with the character his players had shown in fighting back from 26-5 down for a bonus point.

Both he and captain Jean de Villiers said that the Sharks deserved their win.

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