Plumtree: Sharks still not up to scratch

2011-09-29 00:00

THE Sharks attacked the training pitch with renewed vigour this week in preparation for their Absa Currie Cup clash with Western Province at Kings Park on Saturday.

Province come to Durban knowing that one more slip-up – allowing the Blue Bulls to leap-frog them into the top four – could signal an early end to their title aspirations. It has been a decade since they last won the trophy, and given the near-successes of the recent past it would be their fervent hope to bring to an end their anti-climactic seasons.

The Sharks, however, have had more success recently, winning the trophy last year, but like Western Province this season have major obstacles to overcome. Together the two teams have contributed half of the present Rugby World Cup Springbok squad and with a heavy injury toll are finding the going tough.

Despite the disappointment over their performance, the Sharks are in second spot on the log and aiming for a big improvement on Saturday.

“The players have trained hard this week; we had a pretty tough day on Monday,” said coach John Plumtree. “The standards and expectations of playing for the Sharks are pretty high and we’re not at that required level. When you’re in a competition like the Currie Cup and it’s coming to the business end, and you see how tough that competition is, you can’t put your head in the sand when it comes to performance because you know what’s required. Whether we can get there is up to us to prove.”

The coach acknowledged that the opposition are gunning for the forwards, seeing the decimated pack as a potential weak point.

“Clearly we are being targeted upfront. Possibly the bigger tight fives are getting into us a bit, which creates a challenge when you want to win a game of rugby because this is where it all starts and ends. We have a lot of work to do as a forward pack to get that momentum we need to get our backs going, as well as defensively because you have these big ball runners coming up the middle and you have to deal with them.”

Plumtree confirmed that hooker Craig Burden and eighthman Ryan Kankowski are not available yet, and fullback Louis Ludik has a broken bone in his foot and will be out of action for six weeks. Wiehahn Herbst has a groin complaint. He will be available this weekend, but will be carefully managed until the end of the season.

The Sharks team will be named today.

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