Ideal Super 14 start for Sharks

2009-03-09 00:00

THE Sharks have enjoyed a near-perfect start to their Super 14 campaign, but what is particularly encouraging for coach John Plumtree is that they have yet to produce the complete performance.

The Sharks, with four successive wins, three on the road, are comfortably placed on the log, a point behind the pacesetting Bulls and Waratahs who still face their overseas travels.

Plumtree and captain Johann Muller both praised the character and commitment of the players in winning both matches in New Zealand, but conceded that the Sharks were still below their best.

“The one thing this team does know how to do is win. We won 12 games in a row to win the Currie Cup and now we have won four games of Super 14. This team is finding ways to win and that’s huge,” said Plumtree.

And that is obviously what Plumtree would want — a team able to keep winning when below par and then peaking at the business end of the campaign.

Against the Stormers and the Lions, the Sharks failed to translate their superiority into points, but did enough to win; against the Chiefs they initially missed several first-time tackles, made mistakes deep in their own half and then had to hold on bravely (and with some luck) to emerge deserved victors.

In the Blues game, they played too much of the game in their own half, some of their defensive options were poor — at one stage they ran a penalty (not a free kick) from their own line and the Blues immediately punished them with a try — and their scrummaging was surprisingly untidy for a period in the second half and after tighthead Jannie du Plessis, who has been nursing a sore back, left the field.

Scrumhalf Rory Kockott was also criticised in some quarters for running on the blindside from his own quarter and almost conceding a try when his pass was intercepted. But against both the Stormers and the Lions it was Kockott who sparked tries from close to his own line when he ran turnover ball for spectacular tries — by Stefan Terblanche at Newlands and JP Pietersen at King’s Park — and it is this ability to quickly turn defence into attack that is one of the strengths of this Sharks side.

Plumtree has had just the start to the campaign he wanted.

“We set ourselves a goal of going unbeaten in New Zealand and being able to achieve that is outstanding,” he said.

And then Plumtree, always the pragmatist, offered a word of caution: “We have got the credentials to do well in this competition, but it does not give us the right to win it.”

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