Plumtree pleased as Punch with young Sharks

2011-08-01 00:00

COACH John Plumtree is as pleased as Punch with his young squad after their 43-34 Currie Cup weekend win over the threatening Free State Cheetahs and said the returning Springboks could not expect to stroll back into the starting line-up.

The Sharks, unbeaten after three rounds, share top spot on the log with the Lions, and Plumtree is expecting four of five Springboks to return to training today after their Tri-Nation tour of Australia and New Zealand.

“I don’t know who I’ll get back but we’ll see at training on Monday [today] and then we’ll go from there.”

He said that any reinforcements would be a boost, but returning players could struggle to gain selection.

“I’m really happy with the way this current group of players is going. If they can prove to me that they can keep playing like this, then some reputations might be sitting on the bench or not even playing.

“And that’s what you want. We’re pretty comfortable with this 22 at the moment. Unless there are some injuries, I don’t think I’ll be changing too much but they’ve got to keep proving to me that they can keep doing it.

“Griquas [the Sharks’ opponents in Kimberley on Friday night] are always a tough challenge for us, but it’s how we adapt and what we throw at them that really counts,” he said.

The Sharks, slick and aggressive, started with a flourish against the Cheetahs, scoring five tries in half-an-hour (for a 31-10 lead). But they then lost their discipline and spent much of the second half on defence as they were heavily penalised at the breakdown by referee Jason Jaftha.

Plumtree said, “I had hoped it would be a bit more comfortable but we knew the Cheetahs had the pride and talent to come back.”

“What really undid us in the second half was our discipline and we conceded far too many penalties and we’ll have a good look at that. We couldn’t dominate any type of territory or possession,” he added.

But Plumtree said the disappointing second half should not overshadow the quality of the Sharks’ rugby and their five-try win.

“I thought we played some great rugby. I was really impressed with some of our teamwork and we played some really, really good football.

“That’s great because that’s what Currie Cup rugby is all about and I hope it will draw big crowds because that’s the style of rugby we want to play.”

The Sharks lost lock Ross Skeate to a groin strain in the first half.

He praised the efforts of young wings Sibusiso Sithole and Mark Richards who scored excellent early tries.

“Mark has benefited from coming through the age groups and Sibusiso showed his pace in scoring a fantastic try. It is just a pity that we couldn’t get them into space more, but the penalties really hurt our attacking game,” he said.

Coach Naka Drotské said he was “really disappointed” with his team.

“Just like last week [against the Bulls] we only played for one half and we gave away far too many turnovers in the other.”

It is expected that Bok coach Peter de Villiers will release Odwa Ndungane, Charl McLeod and Ryan Kankowski this week.

Even Lwazi Mvovo, Adi Jacobs and lock Alistair Hargreaves could return to the Currie Cup if De Villiers names a squad of 22 or 23 for the remaining Tri-Nations internationals and recalls all those senior players who have been preparing in Rustenburg.

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