Plumtree hails Sharks win as best performance of the season
John Plumtree hailed what he called the “performance of the season” from the Sharks on Saturday after their crushing Currie Cup rugby win over the Lions in Durban, although he insisted next week’s semifinal against the Cheetahs will be a different prospect.
The defending champions, boosted by six of their returning Springboks, sounded out a strong message in their final round-robin game with a commanding 53-9 victory over the runaway winners of the group stages.
They ran in seven tries, in a game which they had to win with a bonus point to end the round they have limped through.
“It’s been hard for everyone. We’ve won ugly quite a bit, we lost out on some points, we gained some and at the end of it all we’ve earned the right to a home semi-final,” said Plumtree.
“We knew there wasn’t any pressure on the Lions and from a motivational perspective they might struggle.
“It’s not often you get that luxury in top-level rugby, so maybe they struggled a bit with that too.
“So, we’re not getting carried away and we know it’s going to be a different kettle of fish next week.”
Only two of their World Cup players, Patrick Lambie and Odwa Ndungane, started the game, while Du Plessis brothers, Bismarck and Jannie, Willem Alberts and JP Pietersen played off the bench.
“I have to give credit to the guys that came back from New Zealand and the disappointment they had to endure.
“To put the jersey on a couple of days later and to play with that type of passion was outstanding.
“But it was not only them, it obviously took a really good team effort tonight.”
The Cheetahs beat Griquas earlier in the day with a bonus point, meaning the Sharks had to match them in order to play at home next week.
“It’s always stressful when you have to go into a big game and have to score four tries,” Plumtree said.
Speaking about the meeting with the Cheetahs for a place in the final, he said it was a pivotal point of the season.
“It’s going to be a huge match next week and lots to play for.
“We will have to look after their big players like Ashley Johnson and Adriaan Strauss.”
Lions’ coach John Mitchell, whose side will host Western Province in the other semi-final, was not too concerned about the result, blaming his side’s attitude for the loss.
“We got a lesson in attitude and were out-willed. It wasn’t anything to do with strategy. They deserved their win,” said Mitchell.
“We didn’t have much to play for, we do next week and we came out of this game reasonably unscathed.
“We’ve done the job. We finished top of the log. That’s finished and we’re into knock-out rugby now.”