Plumtree contract offer gives lie to rumour that he’ll quit

2010-03-04 00:00

THE Sharks, who are in Sydney for Saturday’s Super 14 match against the NSW Waratahs, were surprised to wake up to the news yesterday that their coach is about to get the chop.

The Sydney Morning Herald, happy to exploit any possible chinks in the opposition’s amour, boldly reported yesterday that Sharks’ head coach, John Plumtree, is in danger of losing his job after three successive defeats and that he can no longer count on the support of senior players and administrators back in Durban.

In fact, the opposite is true, and Plumtree has just been offered a three-year extension of his contract by the board, who clearly believe that the Sharks’ problems lie with the players on the field rather than with the coach off it.

Sharks CEO Brian van Zyl told The Witness yesterday that he met Plumtree before the squad left on their overseas tour.

Plumtree’s contract ends at the end of the year and he asked for it to be extended, said Van Zyl.

“The Sharks board have agreed to extend the contract by three years and we would not have done that if we did not have every faith in him as a coach.

“Plum only has to agree to the terms now, but we obviously want him to stay.

“A good coach does not become a bad coach overnight,” Van Zyl said.

Van Zyl had a similar response in January when New Zealand newspapers reported that Plumtree would be leaving Durban at the end of the year to return to the Hurricanes.

The Sharks coach and CEO both refuted the report and Van Zyl said a new contract with Plumtree would be negotiated in the weeks ahead.

Van Zyl yesterday also dismissed wild reports of a rift in the Sharks team.

“These are the type of rumours which surface when a team is losing, but I have spoken to Plum and he assures me there is no unhappiness in the team and they are determined to turn the season around.”

Van Zyl said that there had been “an unsettling build-up” to the season for the squad, with injuries, the late return of the drained Springboks and the sudden retirement of flyhalf Steve Meyer leading to the early disruptions.

He said he remains optimistic that the team will show a major improvement through the Super 14.

The Sharks will name their starting line-up today and changes are expected in the front-row and at halfback for what will be another searching test.

The Waratahs, boosted by their strong weekend showing against the Bulls at Loftus on Saturday night, yesterday included Wallaby Dean Mumm for their first game at the Sydney Football Stadium this season. Mumm returns after serving a two-match suspension and will lock the scrum alongside rookie Kane Douglas. Dave Dennis switches from lock to blindside flanker and Ben Mowen drops to the bench.

“It was always going to be a bit of a juggling act to see how Dean would come back into the team,” said coach Chris Hickey.

Hickey said he was reluctant to make many changes after losses to the Stormers and the Bulls on tour.

“We’ve learned some valuable lessons from the loss to the Bulls, but we couldn’t really fault the commitment of anyone,” said Hickey, “and the combinations are coming together.

“We’re confident of turning in a strong performance this weekend for our first home game and we hope we’ll have a big home crowd to welcome us back to Sydney.”

The Waratahs are heavily favoured against the Sharks team, who have not won in Sydney since 2000, but Hickey is wary.

“They will see their season hinging a lot on this match so we’re expecting a very tough encounter,” he said.

“You’ve got to adjust your strategy to each new challenge.”

The match kicks off at 10.40 am on Saturday morning.


Waratahs team: 15 Sosene Anesi, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Tom Carter, 12 Berrick Barnes, 11 Drew Mitchell; 10 Daniel Halangahu, 9 Luke Burgess; 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Phil Waugh (c), 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Al Baxter, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.

Replacements: 16 Damien Fitzpatrick, 17 Sekope Kepu, 18 Will Caldwell, 19 Ben Mowen, 20 Josh Holmes, 21 Kurtley Beale, 22 Rob Horne.

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