Home Sport Sharks fans in for a rugby treat says Plumtree

Sharks fans in for a rugby treat says Plumtree

319

The Bulls travel to Durban with the mission of winning the game and securing the No.1 spot on the URC table. That would mean a home run of play-offs and possibly a final at Loftus Versfeld.

Siya Masuku of Hollywoodbets Sharks passes to teammate Eben Etzebeth. Picture: Steve Haag Sports, INPHO, Shutterstock (14412455ac)

Mike Greenaway

The Sharks will field their strongest possible side against the Bulls in Saturday’s final United Rugby Championship clash of the season at Kings Park (4.10pm kick-off) but what shape they will be in remains to be seen.

The Sharks have been basking in the afterglow of their Challenge Cup final defeat of Gloucester in London last week, but coach John Plumtree feels the magnitude of the occasion might have taken a toll.

“This Bulls game is a massive challenge for us in terms of preparation,” Plumtree said. “We only just got back, and our week has been compromised. We put a lot of energy into winning the Challenge Cup, but yes, we must sign off the season on the right note.”

The Bulls travel to Durban with the mission of winning the game and securing the No.1 spot on the URC table. That would mean a home run of play-offs and possibly a final at Loftus Versfeld.

In their way is a Sharks team that has been celebrating a cup success, but might not be as driven as the Bulls inevitably will be.

“We spent four of the last six weeks overseas, and I have got a team back together that’s pretty knackered, along with their head coach,” Plumtree said, grinning. “We also picked up some injuries in the final, and we have had only two light runs. But there’s a home crowd (on Saturday), and it’s our last game, so all we can do is put on a performance that everyone enjoys.”

Plumtree understandably wanted to talk more about the Sharks’ success in the Challenge Cup, after a torrid URC that has them placed at 13th spot.

“It has been a marathon season, with many challenges,” Plumtree said. “It was not easy to navigate such a long season without our Springboks in such a loaded international season.

“In between, we were trying to play URC. It has been tough for the coaches, and it’s tough on the players.”

Plumtree has had to negotiate troubled waters, and when the Sharks were rooted to the bottom of the URC, few would have predicted the season ending in silverware.

“It shows just how important it is to have a squad that can compete in the URC without the Springboks,” Plumtree said. “Otherwise, if we can’t do that, then we’re going to have to throw all our eggs into the basket of the Champions Cup next year, and ideally, we don’t want to be doing that. We want to be competing in the URC and pushing for the top eight.”

The bottom line is that the Sharks did pull themselves together, and ultimately their season will be better remembered for their Challenge Cup triumph than their URC failure.

“I’m proud of the boys and what we achieved,” Plumtree said. “The Challenge Cup is not an easy competition to win. Winning any trophy isn’t easy.

“We saw how our season had unfolded in the URC, and we threw all our eggs into one basket, and that was the EPCR,” the coach admitted.

Sharks captain Eben Etzebeth said South African fans have not cottoned on to how significant it is to have at least three local teams in next season’s Champions Cup.

“I hope the Lions can make it as well, so we can have four teams in there,” Etzebeth said. “Hopefully the Stormers can do them a favour this week.

“It’ll be great to have all four SA franchises in the Champions Cup. I think SA fans are not yet sure how big the Champions Cup is. You can see overseas how the stadiums get filled, with everyone excited.”

[email protected]

Previous articleNo bail for man accused of killing ex-wife
Next articleRiveiro wants Pirates to present their ‘best version’ in final