Plumtree: ‘Sharks showed character, huge performance’

2012-10-08 00:00

JOHN Plumtree could not have improved on the weekend script and the Sharks, now clear at the top of the log, are perfectly placed to host another Currie Cup final.

The Sharks, after their 37-30 win over the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday night, and the Golden Lions will host the semi-finals on October 20. But, with the Sharks picking up a bonus point win — with their five tries in Bloemfontein — and the Lions losing 37-21 to Griquas in Kimberley, Plumtree’s charges now have a crucial two-point advantage at the top of the log.

Victory in their final round robin game against Griquas at King’s Park on Friday night will ensure that the Sharks end on top of the log, earning them the right to host the final if they advance.

“We haven’t been all that good at altitude all year, but we turned that around at the right time,” a relieved Plumtree said yesterday.

“It was a huge performance by the boys. They showed character when they were forced to defend for long periods and we made over 200 tackles against a Cheetahs side that played some great rugby. And when we created some opportunities, we managed to score a few tries, which was great. We’re not quite there yet with our attack, but our defence was right up there generally,” he added.

The Sharks win produced an exciting night of cut-and-thrust, ambitious rugby with patches of spectacular running rugby punctuated by error.

The Sharks started sluggishly, taking a leaf out of the Springboks’ book as they sat back on their heels, missed tackles and allowed their opponents to run at them.

The exciting 19-year-old Free State wing Raymond Rhule, who is certain to tour the UK with the Boks at the end of the year, kept finding holes and easily skipped through for the first try as Free State went 10-0 ahead.

But the Sharks finally found some intensity, tightened their defences and created two tries for the hard-working Odwa Ndungane in the second quarter for a 15-10 half-time advantage.

Outside centre Paul Jordaan, chasing down a clever kick by Keegan Daniel, scored from the re-start and flank Jacques Botes and replacement hooker Kyle Cooper added late tries to secure the bonus point and the win.

Plumtree will have his Springboks returning this week and he has some difficult choices to make. The Bok front-rowers Jannie du Plessis and Beast Mtawarira and flank Willem Alberts could be rested, but hooker Craig Burden, wing Lwazi Mvovo, flyhalf Pat Lambie and flank Marcell Coet­zee will be desperate to see action after playing so little rugby over the past six weeks.

But, significantly, hooker Kyle Cooper, who replaced the injured Pieter Dixon early in the game, flank Botes and wing Ndungane were outstanding in Saturday’s win.

Plumtree said the Free Staters had aimed to tire out the Sharks with their high tempo approach.

“We had to make sure we stayed in the contest throughout. There were some crucial moments and that try just after half-time [by Jordaan] gave us a little bit of a buffer.

“It was a really good game of rugby actually and I’m sure the spectators felt it was a good game to watch.”

Plumtree said that hooker Dixon had unfortunately broken an arm and would be out for the season.

Griquas again took full advantage of their hard, dusty home pitch and a spirited second-half showing carried them to a 37-21 win over the log-leading and title-holding Lions in Kimberley.

The Lions led 18-14 at half-time, but Griquas finished strongly in the early afternoon heat and wing Rocco Jansen’s second try on the final whistle gave the home side a bonus point win, their second over the Lions this season.

While the Sharks (30 points) and Lions (28) are comfortably through to the semi-finals, the other four teams, WP (20), Griquas (20), Free State (18) and Bulls (18), are locked in a battle for both the other two play-off spots and avoiding the relegation play-off game.

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