Coach John Plumtree in no mood to contemplate miracles after Sharks’ devastating defeat to the Waratahs

2009-05-10 00:00

JOHN Plumtree, the Sharks head coach, is not one to fanny about with euphemisms or doublespeak and he was damnably direct in his assessment of his players after they had lost their Super 14 game to the Waratahs at King’s Park on Saturday.

Plumtree’s mood was as dark as the weather after the Sharks had gone down to the Waratahs to effectively end their Super 14 challenge.

The Sharks can still reach the semi-finals if a series of results fall in their favour, but Plumtree was in no mood to contemplate miracles.

“Is it do-or-die for the Sharks against the Bulls on Saturday?” Plumtree was asked.

“I think, mate, we’re already dead,” was his succinct response.

Plumtree was particularly miffed about his team’s first-half effort against the Waratahs when they lacked intensity and purpose, missed tackles and were bullied at forward with their scrummaging uncharacteristically weak.

“We don’t deserve to be in the play-offs,” he said. “This is devastating for the Sharks, but I have just told the players that there would be no excuses. And there won’t be. The first 40 minutes [of the game] was not the Sharks side that I know and yet we were playing for our lives.

“That was just not up to scratch and quite a few of the boys would like to apologise to the fans. They were hurting in the dressing-room, but it is too late.

“It was always going to be a hard, close game and we knew it would go to the team that wanted it most. And, on the day, that was the Waratahs. That is pretty sad, a tragedy for Sharks rugby.”

Plumtree said the Sharks improved in the second half.

“But we knew we had to play for 80 minutes to win this game and we did not. The players only lifted themselves after they had a real rev from me at half-time. And that is also sad. A coach shouldn’t have to do that.”

The contest finally turned on an error by the Sharks’ most reliable player, fullback Stefan Terblanche, who botched an attempted fly-hack to present the Waratahs with their match-winning try in the last quarter of the game.

“Stefan knows that he made the error which cost us the game. But that happens in games and he has probably been the best South African fullback in the Super 14. We had other chances to win the game.”

Waratahs coach Chris Hickey highlighted his team’s scrummaging as being a major factor and again Plumtree said the Sharks’ lack of intensity in that area had cost them.

“Against the Highlanders a week ago all eight forwards wanted to scrum and they did. You again have to question whether they wanted it badly enough against the Waratahs.”

Phil Waugh, the Wallaby captain, praised his team for holding out against the Sharks in the second half.

“To keep the Sharks tryless at home, and to come to this great stadium on such a big occasion and win, is very pleasing.”

The Sharks have lost eight of their last nine games to the Waratahs.

The Sharks face more midfield problems against the Bulls with centre Brad Barritt knocked cold by a high challenge from replacement Brett Sheehan and partner Adi Jacobs clearly not over his shoulder injury. But it is the mental approach that concerns Plumtree.

“It has been a dramatic comedown for the Sharks, their bewildered coaches and supporters.”

After eight rounds the buoyant Sharks topped the log with 30 points, their travelling was behind them and a home semi-final was regarded as a formality. Today, on this blue Monday and four games later, they have added just six more points and their season is in tatters. Little wonder Plumtree refuses to beat about the bush.

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