History made at King’s Park, but for wrong reasons

2013-03-18 00:00

NEVER, not once, in the 18 years of Super Rugby have the Sharks been as badly outplayed as they were in the first half at King’s Park on Saturday night when Jake White’s ruthless Brumbies made their own piece of history.

The Sharks, outmuscled and out-thought, were exposed in every area of the game by the slick Brumbies, who won 29-10 and set a Super Rugby record with their seventh successive win on the road.

As the Brumbies hit the highs, the Sharks subsided without trace, conceding four tries in 30 minutes and trailing 26-3 after a first half of carnage.

Boos accompanied them as they left the field and some spectators left the field with them.

Coach John Plumtree, as shellshocked as the players, said he had feared the very worst at half-time.

“We were staring at 50 [points] and that doesn’t happen to Sharks teams. Credit to the guys who came back out and fought in the second half, but the damage had already been done.”

The Sharks outscored the Brumbies 7-3 in the second half, but it was all far too little and 40 minutes too late.

Plumtree said the crushing loss was a combination of the Brumbies’ sublime rugby and an “embarrassing effort” by the Sharks.

“The way they retained the ball and built pressure were real lessons for us and many teams in this competition. They just ate us up.”

There was a concern before the game that the lighter Sharks loose forwards would battle to match the physical threat of Fotus Auelua and Ben Mowen, the Brumbies’ big backrowers. And so it proved as they constantly made inroads. The Sharks at times appeared mesmerised, dazzled in the headlights and unable to respond as the Brumbies ran and ran and ran at them.

Plumtree did not steer away from the ugly truths of the Sharks’ defeat.

“You can’t sit back and wait for a side like that to run at you. We didn’t come off the line at them.

“We weren’t brave enough and we didn’t have enough big hitters to chop them and steal the ball.”

Plumtree said “it was not acceptable that some senior players didn’t step up while there were juniors who did”.

“We are embarrassed and the players are embarrassed. We will look internally and make decisions from there.”

Plumtree had praise for young replacements Pieter-Steph du Toit, Kyle Cooper and Wiehahn Herbst.

“They all put their hands up in the second half and good for them.”

A number of players, including Jannie du Plessis, Louis Ludik, Frans Steyn and Pat Lambie, are nursing knocks.

“There was plenty of ice in the change-room, but most of the damage was to our pride,” the coach added.

Plumtree certainly has problems.

Just one is in midfield where Frans Steyn is a pale (if large) shadow of his former self and the silky distribution skills of Meyer Bosman would bring more to the backline than the crash-bang approach of the bulky Springbok inside centre.

But this was the Brumbies’ night and even Jake White seemed astonished at the outcome.

“This just does not happen, running in four tries against a proud Sharks team in 40 minutes at King’s Park,” he said. “But we must stay humble and not get ahead of ourselves.”

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