Pumas show Sharks how to tackle a Cheetah

2011-07-27 00:00

COACH John Plumtree says that the Sharks, shaken by the Pumas last Friday, will have to improve defensively if they are to contain the Free State Cheetahs in Saturday’s Currie Cup match at King’s Park.

The Cheetahs started strongly against the Blue Bulls at Loftus at the weekend, but lost their momentum and structure in the second half and were beaten 33-30.

Plumtree, in his weekly media briefing yesterday, said Cheetahs are in a similar position to the Sharks with most of their experience crowded into their backline, but fielding a young pack of forwards.

“What’s impressed me is their enthusiasm and, like us, their young players are taking their opportunity and enjoying themselves.

“They could have beaten the Bulls easily last week, but slipped off the money a bit in the second half, so they will talk about coming out with an 80-minute performance against us. We certainly have to respond to that.”

The Sharks, he said, will be tested across the field.

“They bring a lot of width to their game, but can also be blunt up the middle of the field as well. Defensively, you know you always have to be on the money against the Cheetahs. It is something we really focused on at training on Monday. Defence will be key for us.

“When we were stretched and stressed by the Pumas, we fell into some bad habits and we have talked about that. We hope that when we are under pressure on Saturday everyone understands what their jobs are and that we’ll be able to keep them out. But the Cheetahs are definitely going to be a real challenge for us defensively.”

The Sharks coach is still hoping that injured flyhalf Frederic Michalak, nursing a hamstring strain, will be fit for Saturday’s game and is confident centre Marius Joubert (ankle strain) will be ready.

“Marius Joubert is looking better and should be right for Thursday’s training. We’re hoping to get Fred right, but if we don’t, we have Jacques-Louis Potgieter plus Meyer Bosman who is pretty comfortable in that position. So we’re lucky to have a lot of depth in that position.

“Potgieter hasn’t had a lot of opportunities and it’s against his old team so I’m sure he’ll be up for it.”

Plumtree said the Pumas provided a reality check for the Sharks, who squeaked through 23-22 in the closing minutes in Nelspruit.

“Looking at the video it was clear they don’t come much tougher than that. The Pumas are a good side and they’re very physical.

“We were a little bit off the money in terms of our accuracy and we didn’t get across advantage line, as we did against the Bulls, so we spent a bit of time going backwards. We didn’t quick-ball at ruck time and our backs didn’t have a lot to work with. We just weren’t accurate enough, but you have to put that down to the Pumas’ pressure as well.

“It was good to come through. Sometimes you have to settle for ugly wins, and in fairness to the boys they did show character to win.”

Plumtree said the poor weather this week has disrupted training.

“We didn’t train today [Tuesday] because it was so wet and we will have to do the majority of our preparation on Thursday and Friday when we get some sun.”

Plumtree said there is no question of rotating players at this stage because so many regulars are missing.

“That’s what the competition is all about in a Rugby World Cup year. The Lions are missing one or two players, we’re missing 16, so John Mitchell’s team will certainly fancy their chances.

“We’re backing ourselves that we can do a good job in this competition because we’ve worked hard on some young players over the last couple of years who are playing for us now. This is their opportunity to step up and they’re enjoying the challenge at the moment. But it’s only round two so let’s wait and see how they’re going in round 10.”

Plumtree said he will look at making changes when some of his Springboks return after the Tri-Nations tour.

“Obviously that will help. We will then rest up players to keep everyone on edge. When they are playing week after week, complacency can slip in. Right now we have 22 players and some U21s covering us, but I hope that will change in a week or two.”

The match kicks off at 3 pm and young referee Jason Jaftha will handle the game.

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