Sharks 16-match run ends to Reds

2009-03-15 00:00

COACH John Plumtree admitted he felt strange it felt to be facing the media as a losing coach after the Sharks’ 16-match unbeaten run (including the Currie Cup) came to an abrupt, unexpected and disappointing end against the Reds in Brisbane on Saturday night.

For a team who pride themselves on mixing structured play with attacking rugby, dominating the opposition upfront and then cutting loose when the opportunities arise, Plumtree admitted to grave disappointment after their 25-13 loss.

Compounding the Sharks’ problems was a knee injury to Ruan Pienaar after 30 minutes of play.

He is flying back to Durban to have the kneee scanned and assessed, but the initial prognosis is a medial ligament strain which could sideline him for three weeks. A replacement will be sent to Perth, but he is unlikely to play unless the Sharks pick up problems during the week.

“The Reds won a lot of collisions when they attacked our line. I think they were slightly more up for it than we were,” Plumtree said. “We needed to get down their end in the second half and score, and we didn’t, so it was a frustrating night for us really.”

Reds Coach Phil Mooney admitted that matching up to the expected physicality of the Sharks had been one of their primary focuses leading into the game and felt they did extremely well in that department.

“This time last year against the Sharks, the boys said that was the worst knocked about they had been in years, and we knew they had the ability to be direct. We knew we had to match them there, and I thought we did.

“This was good reward for us and all the elements were there, our attack was good and so was the defence.”

For the Sharks, it was a disappointing way to end their run of victorious form in the tournament, although they remain in third spot on the log thanks to a number of other results evening out matters.

“This competition is like that, that’s the nature of it and that’s what makes it so great,” said Plumtree of a number of the bigger sides with high expectations have come undone a few time this season. “We’ve seen the Reds play well and we knew they would win at some stage and beat a top team, good on them.

“That’s the best a side has played against us in a while. To win, everyone needs to perform, I don’t want to make excuses, but we’ve been winning a lot and it’s hard to stay up for it week after week. It’s going to be a test of our side’s character, but I;m sure they will come through this.”

The Sharks made an uncharacteristically high number of errors in the game and Plumtree said it cost them dearly.

“There were so many unforced errors in terms of our passing game and we needed to pressure them 50-60 minutes before breaking them down, and normally we wear teams down. But we didn’t this time. I was pleased how we came out of the change room after half-time and showed how dangerous we can be, but we were chasing the game from then on.”

The Sharks now face testing times as they are forced into an introspective week ahead of their match against the Force in Perth next Saturday — their final match on tour — knowing that a win is not negotiable.

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