Pumas’ early fire not to be underestimated, warns Plumtree

2011-07-22 00:00

SHARKS coach John Plumtree has spent the week persuading his players that they face a tough and different Currie Cup challenge in taking on the Pumas in Nelspruit this evening.

The young Sharks were on a high after dumping the Blue Bulls in a high-profile contest at King’s Park last Saturday and Plumtree is understandably concerned that their heads will still be in the clouds when they face the fired-up Pumas at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit tonight.

Only an intercept try prevented a Pumas’ win at Ellis Park a week back when the Lions, a side left largely untouched by Springbok demands, squeaked home 31-27.

The Sharks will fly to Johannesburg and then make a 300 km coach trip to Nelspruit where the Pumas, and their vocal supporters, will be waiting. While just about everyone is expecting a Sharks win, Plumtree is more circumspect.

“The Pumas are very physical and they play with a lot of intensity,” said Plumtree. “They are also far more of a threat at the start of the season when they are enthusiastic and still have depth in their squad.

“Their forwards are well organised and they have a flyhalf [Ricardo Croy] who runs the game really well. Defensively they are good and they turned the Lions over a lot as well, so we are going to have to be really accurate.”

Plumtree also pointed out that the Friday game left the Sharks with a short week to prepare.

“The short turnabout after the Bulls game and the travel have to be overcome if we are to compete with them physically. If you don’t, you’ll be in trouble of being on the wrong side of an upset.

Sharks teams in the past have battled against hardy “platteland” teams by trying to play too much rugby too soon, and then making errors behind the advantage line. This has played in the opposition’s hands and left them vulnerable at the breakdown behind the gainline. Plumtree will surely look to his young and enthusiastic pack to apply the pressure, play the percentages and douse the early Pumas fire by turning their forwards.

The Pumas have fond memories of their last Nelspruit visit when they beat the Blue Bulls 22-21. They have a robust pack and, as Sharks captain Keegan Daniel pointed out, the Sharks would have to step up again.

“It was a good performance against the Bulls, but the challenge is now to keep doing it for the next 15 weeks.”

The Pumas rely heavily on Springbok Sevens talent, with fullback MJ Mentz, centres JW Jonker and Pieter Engelbrecht and scrumhalf Shaun Venter all capped at national level.

The Sharks backs, in contrast to the forwards, were patchy against the Bulls. The halfbacks (Ross Cronje and Freddie Michalak) were impressive and wings Louis Ludik and Mark Richards, who swop jerseys tonight, were busy but the experienced Stefan Terblanche, Marius Joubert and Meyer Bosman were off colour and Plumtree will be watching their form tonight with more than passing interest.

Playing in distant Nelspruit, away from the bright lights — and the television cameras — on a chilly Friday night, is a far cry from balmy Durbs-by-the-sea.

And if Plumtree’s charges lack intensity and focus, the early Pumas fire will take hold and the Sharks, on the backfoot, will struggle to contain the blaze.

Conversely, if the Sharks roll up their sleeves, take the knocks and do the hard work, they will come away with a valuable win tonight.

It is, really, all in the mind.



15 Stefan Terblanche, 14 Mark Richards, 13 Marius Joubert, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Louis Ludik, 10 Frederic Michalak, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Keegan Daniel (captain), 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Ross Skeate, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Dale Chadwick

Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Julian Redelinghuys/Eugene van Staden, 18 Jan Andre Marais, 19 Francois Kleinhans, 20 Jacobus Reinach, 21 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 22 Sibusiso Sithole


15. MJ Mentz, 14. Deon Scholtz, 13. JW Jonker, 12. Pieter Engelbrecht, 11. Ashwin Scott, 10. Ricardo Croy, 9. Shaun Venter, 8. Christo le Roux, 7. Jaco Bouwer, 6. Corne Steenkamp (cpt), 5. Marius Coetzer, 4. Willem Serfontein, 3. Ashley Buys, 2. Pellow van der Westhuizen, 1. Dawie Steyn.

Replacements: 16. Torsten van Jaarsveld, 17. Brett Nel, 18. Eduan van de Walt, 19. RW Kember, 20. Tian Meyer, 21. Tiaan Marx, 22. Carl Bezuidenhout.

Referee: Mark Lawrence. Kick-off: 7 pm (no television coverage).

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