Sharks players didn’t turn up when Bulls turned on style at Loftus — John Plumtree

Shark head coach John Plumtree feels there is still a lot of work ahead after they were hammered by the Bulls on the weekend

Shark head coach John Plumtree feels there is still a lot of work ahead after they were hammered by the Bulls on the weekend. Photo: Bryan Keane/INPHO/Shutterstock via BackpagePix

Published Dec 4, 2023

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The contrast in mood between coaches Jake White and John Plumtree after the Bulls had whacked the Sharks 44-10 said it all.

Where the ebullient White said he has the nice problem of who to leave out because all his players are in form, the disappointed Plumtree said some of his charges did not pitch for work.

The big New Zealander said at the advent of his second term with the Sharks that he needed time to “work through the player roster”, and you can be certain that after that severe mauling at Loftus, a couple of names have a red line through them.

“We’re very disappointed, but also surprised because I thought we were further down the line in our quest to build a team,” Plumtree said with typical honesty. “We are not a team yet.”

Plumtree admitted that the 69-point hammering of the Dragons the week before had flattered to deceive.

“Last week, we played against a Welsh side that was under the pump because of the conditions in Durban and they were pretty tired.

“The Bulls side is a real team and from a collective perspective, they’re a bit ahead of us. That’s our challenge now and we have to dig deep and become a team.

“We didn’t get a lot of things right in this game and physically we didn’t look like we were in the right space.

“We felt like we had a good week, but it’s clear there were a lot of individuals in our team who didn’t turn up.

“It’s not good enough and we take so much pride in the jersey, but we didn’t show that. It didn’t look like we had our soul. We should have been better.”

White would have been proud to hear Plumtree say the Bulls are an example of a team that the Sharks should aspire to be like.

“Our team’s foundation isn’t solid enough,” Plumtree said. “We have to sort that out because we have enough talent in our team and we’re aspiring to be like the Bulls.

“They’ve got a great squad and Jake’s done a good job. That’s what we’re looking to do, but I’m not letting my players off the hook. They got exposed today.”

When White took the seat vacated by Plumtree at the press conference, he praised his team for a “complete all-round performance”.

“Our scrum was strong, so was our line-out, and the variation in our attack was also very good,” he said.

“The transition from defence into attack was also amazing and I was really happy about that. When they (the Sharks) made a mistake, we punished them.”

The Sharks started each of the halves strongly, but could not sustain the intensity and the Bulls ruled for half-hour periods in each half.

White was thrilled at his team’s ability to absorb pressure and then open the taps.

The biggest improvement in the Bulls this season is in their scrumming and White said this was by design.

“We have added Wilco Louw and Akker van der Merwe and we’re fortunate because you’re not always going to get players of that class.

“It doesn’t surprise me that our scrum is where it is now because we’ve spent time and effort recruiting those players for what we needed in our group.”

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