Coach Plumtree surprised and disappointed by Sharks’ fragility
Bulls played with greater rhythm and composure than last season
Ahead of what he thought was going to be an “ugly” review on Monday Sharks coach John Plumtree said his players had to do some self-reflection after their 44-10 thrashing by the Bulls at Loftus.
The Bulls outscored their coastal rivals by six tries to one in their United Rugby Championship (URC) clash, with the KwaZulu-Natal outfit losing battles all over the park, on a scorching Saturday afternoon in Tshwane. “The mirror might be a good place for the boys to start,” Plumtree chirped in response to a question about how his players might start to improve.
“It’s going to be a pretty ugly review on Monday and the players are going to have to look at how we respond.”
Besides disappointment, Plumtree said he was also “very surprised,” by how the team performed after many felt they had turned a corner a week earlier with their win over the Dragons.
“That Bulls side is a real team and collectively they are a bit ahead of us. We have to dig deep and become a team, we didn’t look like we got a lot of things right,” said Plumtree. “The foundation of the team is not solid enough, but I still felt we could have been better than that.”
After a brisk start thanks to Jaden Hendrikse’s creativity and quick thinking, which resulted in an early penalty that Curwin Bosch slotted, the Sharks were outmuscled and out-thought by a Bulls team that played with a much better rhythm and accuracy than last season.
“I told the players they have to be proud at how they kept their composure and made it difficult for the Sharks,” said the Bulls director of rugby, Jake White. “The scrum was strong, the line-out was strong and the transition from defence into attack was really strong,” he said.
The Bulls’ dominance started in the line-outs and scrums, where their young locks Reinhardt Ludwig and Janko Swanepoel more than held their own against World Cup winner Eben Etzebeth. With the superiority achieved in the scrums, where Wilco Louw was outstanding, the Bulls were able to create a solid foundation that allowed for some excellent tries by their backs.
White said his extensive experience coaching overseas made him look at turning the Bulls into a team where all aspects of the game have to be used.
“I learnt a lot of ways of playing and the way we want to play is that we want to be multiskilled and use forwards and backs. We can’t always outmuscle teams, not that we don’t want to.”
Both teams’ attention turns to the Champions Cup this week, with the Bulls hosting Saracens, while the Sharks take on French side Pau, who suffered a heavy defeat to Toulon in the Top 14 on Saturday.
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