Sharks take ‘mess of a match’

2009-09-21 00:00

HEAD coach John Plumtree says that Ruan Pienaar’s game of musical chairs is over and he will be used at scrumhalf for the Sharks for the rest of the Currie Cup.

Plumtree, mightily relieved after the log-leading Sharks edged out the challenging Free Staters 24-13 at King’s Park on Saturday evening, said it is time some order and stability returns to Pienaar’s rugby life.

Pienaar has been shunted between scrumhalf, flyhalf and fullback for the Springboks and his rugby has suffered. Bok coach Peter de Villiers reportedly said at the weekend that he still regarded Pienaar as South Africa’s best flyhalf although he has been replaced by Morne Steyn and his prodigious boot.

Pienaar wants to be a scrumhalf and Plumtree is happy to accommodate him.

“Ruan needs to start feeling good about his game and the game of rugby again. Cirumstances (an injury to Juan Hernandez) may result in him having to play at flyhalf again, but the plan at the moment is to use him at scrumhalf.”

Pienaar took over from Charl Mcleod at scrumhalf against Free State and he became increasingly more influential as the Sharks resisted a strong Cheetahs’ revival to win.

Plumtree said he has heard not a word from the Springbok coaching staff about Pienaar.

“They all on holiday, aren’t they? he asked with a smile. “I’m working.”

And he had a tough job on Saturday as his Sharks mixed good with bad in a generally untidy display.

“It was a bit of a mess of a match,” said Plumtree, “and neither side could get good clean ball and any momentum from the scrum and the breakdown was quickly lost.

“It went exactly as I thought it would. Free State are a proud team and I knew they would make life difficult for us. I’m just relieved to have won. We knew it was going to be a difficult week full of disruptions as we tried to integrate the Boks back into the system.

“We certainly needed to tighten up in the second half and our kicking game was far too loose. But now we can work on our combinations and we can rest some players and use some Boks who need more game time, guys like Adi Jacobs, Jannie du Plessis and Ryan Kankowski, who have done a lot of practising but very little playing.”

The Sharks looked vulnerable for long periods on Saturday when they faffed about in their own half or when the Free Staters, and particularly fullback Fabien Juries, split their defence. Fortunately for the Sharks, the small fullback ran away from his support on three occasions and tries went missing.

Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske said that Juries, one of world’s top sevens players, was always going to replace the injured Hennie Daniller, but he had kept that a secret to prevent the Sharks’ exploiting the new fullback’s deficiencies under the high ball.

“But I thought Juries was the best player on the field.”

He said the Free Staters lost because they twice turned over possession in the first half (which the Sharks turned into tries) and they missed four kicks at goal. He was also envious of the Sharks who had the luxury of returning Springboks to act as game-breakers in the second half .

The Sharks had a forgettable day with flyhalf Hernandez, playing on his heels, among those making a string of errors under pressure. Fullback Stefan Terblanche was again sound, saving two certain tries with head-on tackles, and making one for Waylon Murray with a remarkable one-handed take and pass, while centre Andries Struass and lock Steven Sykes were also prominent in the win.

The Sharks did lose two players to injury with Craig Burden (damage to the shoulder joint) and big flank Jean Deysel (knee) hobbling off. Plumtree said that Burden is likely to be sidelined for three weeks and the initial medical assessment was that Deysel’s injury was not serious.

The Sharks face the Leopards at King’s Park on Friday evening and, as Plumtree conceded, they will have learnt a valuable lesson on Saturday evening — that you cannot keep trying to play rugby deep in your own half against quality opposition.

See page 19 for Currie Cup round-up.

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