Sharks to work on defence

2013-02-18 00:00

THE work in the lineouts and scrums earned a tick, but coach John Plumtree was less impressed with the Sharks’ defence in their 50-19 weekend win over the Pumas in the friendly played in Nelspruit.

The Sharks, looking for structure, early form and desperate to steer clear of further injuries, ran in eight tries to three on Friday night and then spent the weekend chasing the Big Five at Kruger as part of a team- building exercise.

Plumtree said later that the showing against far stronger opposition than the Leopards provided at Woodburn Stadium a week earlier “had been a real step up.”

“It was exactly what we needed, a step up in physicality. The Pumas ran out of steam at times, but they were pretty tough at the contact areas and the breakdown.

“Our fitness levels and conditioning was a little better than theirs, so when we got opportunities from their poor discipline, we kicked to the corners and drove a couple of lineouts for tries.”

Plumtree said the flow of the game had been broken by too many penalties. But both teams were positive, he added, with teams kicking for position rather than at the posts.

The Sharks coach said he was pleased with the improvement in several areas of the game.

“We have concentrated on our lineout and scrum, and our set piece worked well. That was one of our goals.

“The finishing was also good when we got close to their line, but we were a bit untidy at the breakdown at time.”

The Sharks did leak three tries and Plumtree said it was an area they would have to improve on before the Super Rugby opener against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday evening.

“We certainly have a bit of work to do this week. Some of our players slipped off tackles, which is a bit disappointing, and we were a little bit frantic at times in our phase play.

“So, yes, there are areas to work on, but you’d expect that at this time of the year.”

The good news, said Plumtree, was that there were no serious injuries.

“That is a big relief after what happened at Woodburn.”

There was also a boost when Springbok Marcell Coetzee, who suffered a bruised hip against the Leopards, passed a late fitness test and he took over at number eight from Tera Mtembu.

Coetzee crossed for two tries, flank Jacques Botes for three, centre Paul Jordaan for two and Louis Ludik one.

Plumtree admitted the Sharks could be short of a gallop going into the extended Super Rugby tournament following the unexpectedly limp opposition offered by the Leopards in the first pre-season friendly.

“In the perfect world, I would probably have liked another hit-out because of last week’s disappointment. But the tournament starts on Saturday and we’ll work on what we need to this week.”

The match against the Cheetahs will kick off at 5.05 pm on Saturday.

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