Plum to rely on Hoffman, Cronje

2011-10-05 00:00

COACH John Plumtree said he will be relying on scrumhalves Conrad Hoffman and Ross Cronje to see the Sharks through the rest of the Currie Cup season.

Plumtree was responding to the hip injury that has ended Charl Mcleod’s Currie Cup season, reported in yesterday’s Witness, and conceded that his loss is a major setback for the Sharks.

“It’s bad news to lose Charl. He adds a lot with his ability, leadership and experience, so it’s a big blow for us. But we’ll have to show faith in the other two [Hoffman and Cronje] and I’m certainly not unhappy with them.

“Ross Cronje didn’t have a great day in his last hit-out [against Free State], but he and Conrad, because of injury, haven’t had a lot of opportunity this year.

“We’ll probably keep those two nines going for the rest of the campaign,” said Plumtree, though he does also have the option of switching Frederic Michalak from flyhalf to scrumhalf.

Reflecting on the defeat by the young Western Province side at the weekend, Plumtree said the Sharks have not been accurate enough in taking their chances.

“There was a dropped pass or a turnover at crucial times. Obviously our lineout let us down and we missed out on five attacking lineouts.

“That was a concern for us and was probably the big difference between the two teams.

“Both sides were defensively very strong and it came down to an error [a charged-down kick by Michalak] that cost us the game.”

Plumtree said the Sharks are looking forward to their away game against the Leopards this weekend and the final league outing against the Lions in Durban a week later.

“The boys know what they need to do this week. If we can go up there and have a really good game against the Leopards, a positive performance, then we could possibly secure a semi-final and that would be great. That’s all we’re really focused on.”

But Plumtree, after a fluctuating season, is not taking the bottom-placed Leopards for granted.

“We haven’t performed well against the minor unions all year and they have got into our pack physically. We know we really have to front up there. The Leopards are a big, heavy side so we have to play the game at a good tempo and be more accurate than last week. That’s really the challenge for us.”

Plumtree conceded that the Sharks face a “mixture of problems”.

“There’s inexperience, we have a pretty light front-row, we’ve had injuries and Bok call-ups, so it hasn’t been easy. It’s never easy for the bigger unions in a World Cup year, but we’re positive. In saying that, we can’t be expected to play like the main Sharks side.”

Plumtree said the Sharks, in spite of their problems and lack of form, are still in contention for a home Currie Cup semi-final.

“We’re still taking it game by game, but it’s been a struggle for us all year, a frustrating season and hard work. But we’re still in it and we’ll fight to the end.”

He said that at the end of nine months of Super Rugby and Currie Cup rugby player management is critical.

“You have only to look at a guy like Keegan Daniel, who has had a massive season, to see the impact of a long season.

“But now is the reward time when there is the incentive of a semi-final, so it’s an exciting time as well. At a time like this you forget about all those niggles and just get on with it.”

The Sharks’ game against the Leopards kicks off at 7.10 pm on Saturday.

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