Sharks using final defeat as motivation
Already under pressure after their opening defeat at Loftus, the Stormers won’t be happy to hear that the Sharks are preparing for Saturday’s coastal Vodacom Super Rugby derby at Kings Park as a grudge match.
But that is exactly the import of what Sharks coach John Plumtree said following his team’s 29-22 win over the Cheetahs at Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein on Saturday afternoon. Plumtree said that not only did the result of last year’s Currie Cup final, where Western Province were the unexpected victors, hurt his players, it also provided the motivation that was needed in what he said was a hard pre-season.
“The result of last year’s Currie Cup final will definitely mean something to our game against the Stormers at Kings Park as it was not a nice way for us to finish the season and the result hurt us,” said Plumtree.
“We would like to make up for that by reversing the result this time, but the defeat may have helped us in that it has motivated us to work extra hard during the off-season. The Currie Cup final pinpointed the areas that we needed to work on, and we have put in a lot of hard yards during the summer months to correct our weaknesses. I think this game (against the Cheetahs) showed that the work is paying off.”
Not all of those who were at Free State Stadium would have been completely convinced about the Sharks’ lineout performance, and the ease with which the Cheetahs drove over for a try from an attacking lineout early in the game should been of concern to the Sharks coach. But Plumtree was right to point out that the lineout play was a massive improvement on the Currie Cup final, when it was the Achilles heel for his team.
“There were areas we decided we needed to work particularly hard at over the off-season, and lineouts were obviously one of them. We needed to sort out the throwing, and in that regard Craig Burden and Kyle Cooper, the two hookers playing at the moment, have put in the hard yards. This performance was an indication that the work that has been put in is paying off.”
There were times in the game when the Sharks allowed themselves to be sucked into a loose game, something that plays to the strengths of the Cheetahs. And in the second half it was clear the Sharks ran out of a bit of puff, something that was inevitable as the Sharks had a less intense onfield build-up to the new season than the Cheetahs had.
“I think we have realised we may need to have another look at how we approach the pre-season phase as we may need a more intense hit-out ahead of the Super Rugby start. But we were saved by our bench in this game. Meyer Bosman came on and made a few try-saving and possibly even match-saving tackles, and I thought Jean Deysel gave us a lot of go-forward once he came onto the field.
“Pieter-Steph du Toit also went over for a try that was disallowed. So I was pleased with the contribution of the bench. It was a good start for us in the sense that we have lost our opening game over the past three years and at least this time game one provided a positive result. I thought we did a lot of things that were good, and our scrum was excellent. It was there that we laid the foundation for our win. And Pat Lambie played well in general play, and kicked accurately at the posts as well as out of hand.”