Plum: Sharks still in it … but a favour won’t go amiss

2011-06-02 00:00

COACH John Plumtree believes that victory in two of the remaining three matches could be enough for the Sharks to finish in the top six and advance to the play-offs in this year’s Super Rugby competition.

The Sharks wrap up their league programme with away games against the Cheetahs, Lions and Bulls over the next three Saturdays.

Victory in all three, tough as this might be, would certainly ensure a top six finish, but Plumtree said that results of other games involving contenders would help their cause and could result in three South African teams (the Stormers, Sharks and Bulls) reaching the play-offs..

“The other sides can also do us some favours by knocking off our other challengers. If the Force beat the Highlanders on the weekend, that could take them out. The Bulls beating the Waratahs could take them out as well and then there could be three South African sides in the top six. And that would be a really good effort in the first year of this competition.”

Plumtree said he was convinced there would still be twists and turns in the final three rounds of league competition and wants the Sharks to shape their own destiny.

“You can see how the best teams in the competition are getting excited about the prospect of the play-offs. Look at the Reds and the Bulls. The better teams are starting to up their level, lift the tempo of their matches and we need to climb that ladder as well.”

The Reds, leading on 54 points and with a relatively comfortable ride over the final three weeks with a home match against the Brumbies and then away games against the Force and Chiefs, should end the season top of the log.

“The Blues (54), Stormers (52) and Crusaders (49) are in a dogfight for second spot and the right to host the second semi-final. The Sharks (47), Waratahs (46), Bulls (45) and Highlanders (44) are vying for the final two wild card entries.

Sharks fullback Louis Ludik said the win over the Waratahs had done wonders for the confidence and mood in the camp.

“It was a very good win for us after the disappointing loss to the Bulls.”

While the Sharks were still patchy at times, Ludik said “there were a lot more positives than negatives”.

Ludik, who moved to Durban from the Lions and had an extended injury break, said he was enjoying his rugby with the Sharks.

“It’s just awesome to play every week. I’m fortunate and grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given since my injury.”

Ludik, brave on attack and defence, has been solid rather than brilliant in a Sharks backline which has yet to fire on attack.

“I want to go out there, every game, and give it my best. I don’t think I’m at my best, but I’m training my heart out and I would like to up my game quite a bit.”

The Sharks fullback is anticipating another physical derby against the Cheetahs on Saturday

“The Cheetahs have picked up good form and have been playing their best rugby in a long time. They’re really on a high and we’re going to have to be at our best.”

After rumours that Ruan Pienaar would be joining the Stormers or the Bulls for the final rounds of Super Rugby, the Springbok scrumhalf was at the Sharks’ practice this week … as a spectator.

Pienaar has just finished a long and successful season with Ulster and was in the Barbarians team which beat England at Twickenham at the weekend.

Pienaar has told Sharks officials that he is planning to return to Durban when his contract with Ulster ends next June.

Saturday’s game in Bloemfontein kicks at 5.05 pm.

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