Clash was of ‘Test match’ intensity

2013-03-04 00:00

RIVAL coaches Allister Coetzee and John Plumtree agreed that Saturday night’s Super Rugby derby at King’s Park was played with Test match intensity with the quality of the Sharks’ line-out and scrum laying the platform for their 12-6 win over the Stormers.

The Sharks, desperate to take the high road to the competition play-offs by winning the South African conference, took a significant step in the right direction with the weekend victory.

Coetzee remained in an upbeat mood after a second successive loss.

“I’m happy with the attitude and effort of the players against a very good Sharks side. We certainly stepped up after losing to the Bulls [in the first round] and that was encouraging.”

Coetzee described the contest “as a real arm-wrestle”.

“That is as tough as it gets on a rugby field.”

The two areas that concern Coetzee are the scrum — “we conceded four penalties against a Springbok front-row” — and the unforced errors.

Sharks coach Plumtree said he had not been surprised by the dour nature of the contest.

“This game was always going to be about pressure and patience.”

He said the Sharks lost their attacking direction briefly in the first half, but had regained some momentum in the second half.

“The Stormers hit you so hard and you can end up on the backfoot,” adding that the battle for territory had highlighted the importance of the Sharks’ kicking game.

But it was the quality of the Sharks’ set piece which set the mood for the game. They held the advantage in the scrums and Plumtree’s plan of attacking the Stormers’ line-out, and pressuring their jumpers, was an outstanding feature of the win. The Stormers were never able to set their line-out drive and their line-out possession was often untidy.

“We put them under pressure where in the past we haven’t been able to do that to the Stormers line-out. That evened up the playing field a bit and we were able to relieve pressure, unlike in the Currie Cup final.

“That was the major difference in this game.”

The Stormers were also heavily penalised in the scrum and Plumtree praised the referee.

“The scrum has become a big weapon of ours and Jonathan Kaplan got it spot on when their scrum went down under pressure. Good on him.”

Plumtree made special mention of man-of-the-match, flank Jean Deysel, who had replaced Jacques Botes for the game.

“Deysel played really well. He’s had a tough couple of years but we’ve persisted with him and he showed what he can do. And he will get better. His knee is right, he’s more agile, he’s lost a bit of weight and reached the goals I’ve set for him. I’m really pleased for him after all the frustrations over a long period of time.”

The improvement in the Sharks’ line-out was particularly encouraging.

“You can’t underestimate how important [lock] Franco van der Merwe has been in organising the line-out. He has been an outstanding acquisition and a great character. He’s Johann Muller reincarnated.”

Both Coetzee and Plumtree said they had no serious injuries.

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