To laugh or cry, Plumtree’s poser
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Hamilton, New Zealand – There were conflicting emotions in the Sharks camp on Saturday after they had been the architects of their own destruction by starting disastrously against the Waikato Chiefs, but then played their most enterprising rugby of the Super Rugby season to give them encouragement for the tour ahead.
The home side could not believe their luck in the opening quarter at Waikato Stadium when the dozy Sharks defence allowed them in for three soft tries and at 24-0 after 15 minutes, a hiding was on the cards, but the visitors dug deep to score the next 19 points in the match and eventually scored four tries in a 37-29 defeat, a significant achievement away from home considering they had not scored a try in their last three matches.
Coach John Plumtree was not sure whether to laugh or cry. He was annoyed that the game had been lost but pleased by the positive play of a team depleted by injuries, and also by ending the try drought. But he was displeased that the Sharks were denied a second bonus point at the very death when the Chiefs kicked a penalty after the hooter to ensure the Sharks lost by more than seven.
“We really ought to have got two points out of that match but you just can’t expect to win after giving a team like the Chiefs a start like that,” he said.
“Having said that, I was really proud of the comeback, the boys stuck to the task once we got the ball and we looked pretty good. Our driving line-out hurt them when we earned penalties but it was disappointing that it was all about catch-up after having given them that start.”
The Chiefs’ tries were well taken but they came from defensive errors by the Sharks, who seemed stage-struck at first.
When they gained possession, they forced penalties and to their credit, chose to kick for the corners and back their line-out rather than go for three-pointers.
It worked well, with flank Derick Minnie twice going over on the back of driving mauls, and No 8 Tera Mtembu deservedly scoring after the Sharks took the option of a set scrum in the Chiefs’ 22 rather than take an easy three points.
“It was great to score some of our own tries,” Plumtree said. “We had been critical of our own performances of the last few weeks because we had been predictable on attack, and in this game we got rid of that. We played a lot more rugby. We had not scored a try for three weeks and got four in this match. It was pleasing because the stuff we worked on in training, we put on to the pitch. With a bit of luck it could have been closer.”
Aside from the defeat, there was further bad news for the Sharks on the injury front. Scrumhalf Cobus Reinach has suffered a serious ankle injury and will return home today. He is the second player in a week to sustain a tour-ending injury. Centre Paul Jordaan tore knee ligaments in the first training session of the tour.
The Sharks do not have an obvious answer as to who to call-up to replace Reinach. Scrumhalf has been the one position this season where they have not had depth. They have only had Charl McLeod and Reinach in their squad. Complicating the issue is the fact that the Sharks have two age group scrumhalves in the SA Under-20 squad. Plumtree said that a strong possibility is Rovers scrumhalf Tiaan Meyer, who last year was in the Sharks’ Currie Cup squad.
“Every time we train or play we seem to lose a player – the injury list just gets longer and longer,” Plumtree said. “The good news is that we should get JP Pietersen and Lwazi Mvovo back for this week’s match against the Highlanders.
“Also, I wanted some nice surprises to come out of this match in terms of individual performances given that there were a number of new caps as well as players playing out of position,” Plumtree continued. “And I got that. Tera Mtembu played really well, so did Derick Minnie and Piet Lindeque on the wing showed he can play at this level.”
The coach said he was heartened by the performance of Wiehahn Herbst at loosehead, considering he is a specialist tighthead, and by the improved game of Frans Steyn. – Sunday Tribune