Sharks’ Super 15 hopes dashed

2012-06-04 00:00

COACH John Plumtree’s worst fears were realised at Ellis Park on Saturday night as the form book was turned upside down and his in-form Sharks were mugged by the unfancied but hungrier Lions in their Super Rugby derby.

The Sharks hopes of climbing up the log to at least fourth place and earning a home quarter-final were dashed by this 38-28 defeat and they will now battle to make the top six and reach the play-offs.

Plumtree, who had spent the week warning of the dangers of complacency, was clearly massively disappointed by the response of his players.

“We let ourselves down and we’ll probably look back at this game for the rest of the campaign as a big disappointment,” he said yesterday.

While the Sharks were ragged and untidy in the first half – they trailed 31-11 at the break – they did bump into thoroughly prepared and hugely committed opposition, a Lions outfit who produced easily their most impressive rugby of the season with their defence around the fringes the most remarkable feature of their win.

“I have to give the Lions credit, they were excellent in the collision areas,” said Plumtree.

“I thought their forwards played very well, they slowed us down at breakdowns and we didn’t deliver the kind of game that we needed to, particularly in the contact areas.”

He said that had been a major frustration.

“Fred Michalak [flyhalf] wasn’t getting good ball and the Lions successfully slowed us down. You have to give them credit.”

Plumtree said the Sharks knew they could fight back in the second half.

“We knew we were capable of scoring tries against them, we just had to hold on to the ball and be patient. Unfortunately, we slipped into some bad habits from the first half of the season, they returned to haunt us.

“We’ve missed out on the opportunity to keep up with the top teams and now we’ll be fighting for a play-off position,” Plumtree added.

Plumtree said he could not blame the physicality of the Stormers game a week earlier for the Sharks’ limp display.

“It was physical for the Stormers as well in Durban and they lifted themselves to beat the Bulls on Saturday night.”

Significantly, the Sharks’ most robust players made little impact on Saturday night and Plumtree substituted Springboks Willem Alberts and the Du Plessis brothers, Bismarck and Jannie, for the last quarter.

Everything that worked so well against the Stormers the previous week failed miserably at Ellis Park and the Sharks’ interest in this year’s Super Rugby competition is again hanging by a thread.

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