Sharks will have to get up again for the toughest derby against Stormers

2012-07-23 00:00

JOHN Plumtree, a coach with his feet firmly planted in the ground, is not the superstitious type but he was talking about omens after his Sharks side had dumped the fancied Reds, the Super Rugby champions, in Brisbane on Saturday night.

The Sharks’ hugely impressive 30-17 playoff win at Suncorp Stadium has carried them into a semi-final clash against the log-topping Stormers at Newlands on Saturday evening.

The Crusaders, comfortable winners over the hornless Bulls in Christchurch on Saturday, meet the Chiefs in Hamilton on Friday in an all-New Zealand semi-final.

The August 4 final will be in New Zealand if the jet-lagged Sharks somehow manage a win at Newlands or in Cape Town if the Stormers prevail.

Plumtree told reporters that it was a case of history repeating itself on Saturday, adding that there were signs even before the game that the Reds were in trouble.

Plumtree said that Ian McIntosh, the last coach to take the Sharks to an upset playoff win in Brisbane in 1996, sent him a text shortly before Saturday’s game.

“I was part of that McIntosh era. He said it felt like history can repeat itself. He was right and it is fantastic,” Plumtree said.

There was another parallel. The Reds lost their flyhalf Ben Lucas to injury after the first quarter, just as they had done in Durban in March when they then lost their way — and the match — after Will Genia, arguably the leading scrumhalf in world rugby, took over the pivot role.

Plumtree said he thought it strange that Reds’ coach Ewen McKenzie had again chosen to switch Genia [and not inside centre Mike Harris] to flyhalf and field the 19-year-old utility Nick Frisby at scrumhalf.

“I was a little surprised that they didn’t put Harris at 10 and leave Will at nine,” Plumtree said. “Will allowed us into the game because he was throwing a lot of skip passes and we read that.

McKenzie defended his decision and said he wanted Genia at flyhalf to stretch the Sharks’ defence and tire out their jet-lagged players.

“We’ve always got Plan B and C, and we went to that,” he said. “Will went to 10, and he went to 10 last time we played the Sharks, so we’ve been practising that scenario.

“That was fine and we were prepared for that, and we got the flow we needed.”

“We wanted to fatigue them, we wanted to move them around and we were doing that. We couldn’t control it completely in the end so it got a bit frustrating,” said McKenzie.

Looking ahead to Saturday, Plumtree said it would be the toughest of derby games.

“We’ve got to stop the Stormers’ pack. They are very direct. They drive a lot. They put up a lot of contestables and their wings are good.

“We know what’s coming. We just have to stop it. Newlands is a tough venue. They pack it in. For us to get up again this week will be a huge challenge.”

Plumtree said he was was proud of the Sharks’ display — particularly in the first half.

“To win away from home in a place like this was always going to be a good effort.

“The Reds are an outstanding side and they had won 21 out of 23 at Suncorp.

“We knew we had to start well and we managed to do that. Ultimately, we just had to hang on really. We didn’t have a lot of possession in the second half, but the way we played in the first half was outstanding.”

Plumtree will be delighted with the balanced Sharks’ display, one which mixed clinical finishing and off-loading on attack in the first half with swarming defence in the second.

The only obvious damage to the Sharks was at outside centre where the young try-scorer Paul Jordaan, who added pace and verve to the backline, aggravated a hamstring injury. His replacement, Meyer Bosman, was solid but he will remember the evening for tripping over his own legs just a couple of metres from an open try-line.

But, on the night, it was a mere stumble on a glorious march to victory.

• See page 18 for the rest of

Saturday’s Super rugby.

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