Tiring Sharks hold on to lead

2013-02-25 00:00

SHARKS coach John Plumtree admits he was preparing his loser’s speech late in Saturday’s Super rugby game against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

The Sharks had led 26-5 entering the final quarter of the game when a rush of 17 points by the Cheetahs narrowed the deficit to four points (26-22). The tiring Sharks, boosted by replacements, finally held on for a 29-22 win, picking up a valuable four log points on the road.

Plumtree said the Bloemfontein fixture had traditionally been “a tricky one” and he was concerned because the soft pre-season friendlies had not tested the Sharks.

“I was concerned about our ability to attack and defend for long periods and it did prove a problem. We were pretty knackered in the second half and I was preparing for defeat in the last 10 minutes when we were flagging and the Cheetahs had all the confidence and momentum.

“I hope we will be better off on Saturday when we play the Stormers, but there is lots of work to do.”

He said the win, by whatever means, was important in boosting the confidence of the players and their new captain Frans Steyn.

Plumtree said both teams were rusty, “and we were sloppy at the breakdown in the first half and failed to hang on to the ball which was frustrating”.

But the Sharks coach was glowing in his praise of flyhalf Pat Lambie and encouraged by the strong scrummaging, the improved lineout and the impact of the replacement bench.

“I thought Lambie was outstanding, at posts, in varying his play and in his long kicking game. He did everything right in this game.”

Lambie, he said, had to move to fullback in the closing stages because of injuries “but I think he did everything right on the night”.

“He is also benefiting from having experienced guys in support alongside him, JP [Pietersen] on his inside and Frans [Steyn] outside him.

“He is definitely on track [as a flyhalf] and he is going to get better and better.”

The introduction of fresh legs had helped salvage the win, he said. “Meyer Bosman made one try-saving tackle, Jean Deysel did some really big things as did Pieter-Stef du Toit. The bench was important and I thought our scrum was outstanding.

“The lineout was also pretty good. The two hookers [Craig Burden and Kyle Cooper] have worked exceptionally hard with [lock] Franco van der Merwe.”

Plumtree said there had not been any serious injuries though wing Lwazi Mvovo had left the field with a slight muscle strain.

Ahead lie the Stormers at King’s Park on Saturday night (7.10 pm).

“That will be an intense, physical struggle. The collisions will be huge. The Stormers and Sharks bring out the best in each other. We knocked them out of Super Rugby last year and they beat us in the Currie Cup final. There will be no shortage of rivalry.”

He said that the result would be important to both teams “because we are at home and the Stormers, after losing at Loftus on Friday, will be desperate to get a win”.

Busy flank Jacques Botes, wing JP Pietersen, Lambie and the strong pack were prominent in the win. Captain Frans Steyn was delighted with the showing of the Sharks forwards

Even the second-half introduction of Bok prop Coenie Oosthuizen could not contain the Sharks scrum, as captain Frans Steyn later highlighted.

“We got a good platform from the scrums for our attacks,” he said.

“Guys like Jannie [du Plessis] and Beast [Mtawarira], actually the whole pack of forwards, dominated on the day.

“It gives us a good area to work from for the game against the Stormers.”

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