at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Sharks coach John Plumtree rates his team’s away win over the Reds at the weekend as the “performance of the season”, but says that they will have to play better than that if they are to upset the Stormers in Saturday’s Super Rugby semi-final at Newlands.
“I thought the boys played some great rugby. I was really proud of the way they performed,” Plumtree said yesterday.
“We had to win by various means - in the first half we did it by attack and in the second we did it on defence - we had to absorb a lot of pressure, and the way we defended said a lot about the effort. We made three times as many tackles as the Reds and spent a lot of time in our 22 in the second half. But our attack was good enough in the first half, and the set-piece functioned well.”
But now attention is firmly focused on winning a semi-final on SA soil at Newlands in the game on Saturday after the Chiefs and the Crusaders play on Friday.
“The Stormers beat us down there and we beat them here. It’s the nature of Allister (Coetzee) and I to talk up the opposition, but I’ve really admired the Stormers this season,” Plumtree said.
“They’re obviously well led because they’ve performed so consistently and finished on top of the SA conference. They very rarely lose at home and it will be a huge challenge for us. I think the last time we beat them at Newlands in Super Rugby was in 2007. It’s going to be a massive game. They’ve been sitting back and waiting while we’re returning from some travel.
“Everyone will feel better as the week goes on, and by the time Saturday comes we’ll be ready to go,” Plumtree said.
“We’ll be up for it all right, but we’ve got to be smart about our preparation this week. Everyone will be talking about the travel factor, but we knew we’d have to travel again if we got through our play-off, it just depended where we would be going.
“As it turned out we’ve had to come back to SA, and the players are positive about being back home – at least they can sleep in their own beds and spend time with family, which energises you. “It’s always nice coming home.” - The Mercury