John Plumtree sticks to guns on Sharks’ new style despite losses
Sharks coach John Plumtree will not give up and return to the old way of doing things, despite his attempt to implement a new style of play failing to yield results in the early stages of the United Rugby Championship (URC).
The Sharks have failed to win a game in the URC in the 2023-24 season, losing all five games under new boss Plumtree. The men from the Zulu Kingdom suffered their fifth successive defeat in going down 13-12 to Connacht at Kings Park on Saturday.
They suffered four defeats in their month-long tour of Europe, with a high error rate being the common denominator. Their performances have not always been poor, and they have created chances, with lack of sharpness upfront a let-down.
Plumtree emphasised that when you are going through changes, especially involving style of play, problems can arise as players adapt.
“I’ve been saying it all week, and I will keep saying it: we are playing a different style of rugby [compared with what] the Sharks have been playing for a good number of years now. And we are playing that game with the same players so there are going to be teething problems,” Plumtree said after the Connacht defeat.
“Some players, for their skill set, it’s challenging, but there’s no going back. I’m not going to go back to kicking the ball away and trying to create opportunities through luck.
“I want to try to build pressure through us being able to play good rugby and [Sharks attack coach] Dave Williams has done a good job in that space. But ... we are not clinical enough, and we need to help them [the players] fix that.
“For the supporters, I don’t like losing because I’ve never lost as many games. It’s new for me too. It’s important to understand that on Monday we are our hardest critics.
“We will go through that game again, looking at all the stuff we have just talked about in this press conference. Of course, the media will go hard on us, but they won’t be as hard as we will go on ourselves. So we will be OK.”
The coach was impressed with most of his players at Kings Park, including Springbok star Lukhanyo Am, who made his comeback on Saturday after a long period out.
“I’m loving that they are doing everything I’ve asked them to do. I’ve got to take the responsibility for that [individual mistakes]. We are still not quite clinical enough.
“We are getting those opportunities, but we are just not ruthless. We played the most rugby tonight, and I’m really proud about that because that’s what I came here to do, but our line-outs didn’t function as well as they could have.
“I’m hurting, but I’m hurting mainly for the team because they are trying really hard, but they are not getting any reward.
“They are a young group, and it’s really tough for them because every week we are working, but we just can’t get over the line. We have lost two games by one point. But we will get there.”
As the only team that has failed to win a match this season, the Sharks remain rooted at the foot of the URC table with just two points.
Plumtree is not overly concerned about that, as he believes there are enough games to play to secure a top-eight spot that comes with a knockout place and participation in next season’s European Champions Cup.
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