Sharks must retain focus for Cheetahs
After the disappointment of the unexpected defeat to the Lions, the Sharks needed to bounce back strongly – and they did that and more in thrashing the Vodacom Bulls 32-10 in Durban on Friday night.
It’s a long time since the Bulls have been so comprehensively outplayed, at least by South African opponents, and the ease with which the Durbanites dismantled them does beg a question about how the Sharks have managed to lose as many as six games this season. And how on earth did this team conspire to lose against the Lions?
Not that the Sharks should be overly concerned about that miss, for with the Stormers continuing to win at the top of the conference the Lions result may not have made any big difference to their chances of avoiding the wildcard phase of the knock-outs.
In the end the difference between fifth and sixth may be the difference between going to Christchurch or Canberra, so the Sharks might find they are more pleased with sixth than the Bulls will be if they finish fifth.
But Sharks coach John Plumtree has been in the situation before where his team counts chickens before they hatch, and he will be drumming it home to his players this week that they haven’t achieved anything yet.
The Cheetahs will be visiting Kings Park next Saturday and like the Lions are becoming, the team from Bloemfontein has a habit of upsetting the Sharks in important games.
The fitness of Patrick Lambie and Willem Alberts, the two injured Springboks who missed the Bulls game, will be assessed this week, and Plumtree is in the pleasing position of being able to strengthen an already strong and in-form team. And the prospect of Steyn and Lambie playing in the same Sharks team is an enthralling one.
“Frans Steyn has grown so much since he left us, he has gone from being a boy to being a man,” enthused Plumtree about the former Racing Metro star after the Bulls game.
“He’s a class player in that he just appears to have so much much time (on the ball). He gets caught in contact and still manages to offload. His kicking game is great and his calmness, enthusiasm and leadership are great qualities for us to be able to draw on.”
Plumtree said that the aim had been to up the tempo against the Bulls.
“We wanted to be ambitious and speed the tempo of the game, and to do that, we needed to support each other really well. I thought we were superb.”
Indeed they were, but they were also impressive in their good win over the Stormers only for it all to come crashing down around them the following week at Coca-Cola Park.
Although this game is at home, the Sharks will be mindful of the need to maintain momentum by producing the consistency that has been lacking too often this season. With the end now in sight and the play-offs just around the corner, it’s unlikely they will falter now.