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John Plumtree © Gallo Images

Sharks work on combating Jake’s approach

By blowing it in the final quarter against the Waratahs in their first tour match, the Sharks have left themselves with lots of work to do as they head to their second overseas match against the Brumbies in Canberra.

They would have seen two wins on tour as the minimum requirement to ensure that themselves of a solid platform from which to strike for a place in the play-offs when they return to South Africa for an extended run of home games. They head to New Zealand after this, and they know that although they have a better record on the other side of the Tasman than they have in Australia, they won’t be playing in easy games.

At the start of the season the Sharks would have targeted the Brumbies clash as one they should expect to win. That though was before the Brumbies started to show their great improvement under Jake White’s new coaching team in Sydney and they look determined to re-establish their home venue as the fortress it used to be.

Although White’s presence might make the Brumbies more of a known quantity to the Sharks, judging from his comments from Australia he also knows how much more difficult the Brumbies could be to play against if they get it right. He says it is imperative that the Sharks impose themselves on the game from the outset and be as clinical as possible if they hope to win.

“If we can force our game on them, if we can be more clinical at kick-offs, play all the basics of our game really well, especially defence, then we are a good enough side to win, because our attack is coming along nicely,” said Plumtree.

“You can see the South African influence coming through from Jake with the driving line-outs. And they play very direct rugby and are very aggressive on defence. They’re obviously focussed again on making sure their home ground stadium is the fortress it was in the past. We know what a massive challenge it is. Canberra is a place where we have had a lot of heartache.”

Plumtree lamented the “three soft tries” his team conceded against the Waratahs.

“We won’t be wanting to repeat that against the Brumbies. We were disappointed to let it slip. We were three points up 73 minutes into the game, and it should have been a lot more, but we got pretty tired around the three-quarter mark and faded quickly. All of our defensive indicators and measurements showed a big drop off.

“How much of that was down to the intensity of the game and how much to jetlag, I’m not sure, but we just couldn’t maintain what we needed to do. Every time the Waratahs put pressure on us on attack, we couldn’t stop their momentum. They gained metres all the time and when they were deep in our half, they threatened to score every time.”

Although the Sharks still battled at the kick-offs, Plumtree was pleased with the improvement made in the lineout, an area where his team have struggled all year.

“The Waratahs have a much taller pack than us but we won 12/12 of our own throw-ins, so that’s the best it’s been and we want to build on that,” said Plumtree.


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