Sharks wary of Highlanders

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Plumtree_final1 Steve Haag Gallo Images Sharks coach John Plumtree.

Coach John Plumtree says his Sharks team must be wary of a rejuvenated Highlanders side, despite the tourists' poor record in Durban, when they meet in a Super Rugby encounter at Kings Park on Saturday.

The New Zealand outfit have not beaten the Sharks since 2005, though they did not play each other last season.

It has been a complete turnaround, however, for the Otago-based side this year as their opening nine games have resulted in seven victories.

They are also the only team to have beaten the impressive top-of-the-table Chiefs in 2012, while they began their tour of SA last week with a win against the Cheetahs.

“The Highlanders are a really good side,” Plumtree said.

“They’re up there and they’ve been consistent all year.

“To travel all the way to South Africa from New Zealand and to win their first game takes a good effort.

“It shows what a quality, tight-knit unit they are.”

The Sharks boss also saw plenty of comparisons between the Chiefs and the Highlanders and believed the hosts would need to be on top of their game.

“Their coach, Jamie Joseph, is a good friend of mine. We coached together at Wellington,” Plumtree said.

“I know how he handles a team and you can see his influence is there.

“Based on team culture, tightness and playing for each other, the Highlanders are pretty similar to the Chiefs in many ways.

“We’ll have to be very well prepared to beat them.”

The hosts, in seventh place, are two places behind the tourists in the overall standings, with their season dogged by inconsistency and near misses.

They had a bye last week, but prior to that were beaten by the Chiefs at home in what was their fifth loss out of nine games.

The Sharks, however, have been boosted by the return of Springbok front-rower Tendai Mtawarira, making his first appearance of the campaign after cracking a bone in his ankle during pre-season.

Plumtree was confident they could still be a major threat this season.

“We want to play well every week and improve every week,” he said.

“It’s not just about relying on winning at home. We have a job to do, home and away, if we want to be where we aim for.

“Making the playoffs in this competition is a good effort because it’s such a tough competition, but we want to talk about going further than that.” – Sapa


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