Preview: Hollywoodbets Sharks vs Dragons RFC

Saturday’s round six Vodacom United Rugby Championship clash with Dragons RFC is poised to be the turning point in the Durban side’s campaign as they welcome the Welsh outfit to Hollywoodbets Kings Park.

Having missed their Rugby World Cup Springboks for the opening five weeks – bar Lukhanyo Am who returned to play last week and leads his team this week – after consultations with the returning players who are keen to get stuck in, the Hollywoodbets Sharks will look to throw everything at their opponents.

Head coach John Plumtree couldn’t heap more praise on his senior players for making such a committed call.

“We had a meeting at 7 o’clock on Monday morning, a general chat about how they’re feeling generally, both physically and mentally,” he explains. “The feedback from there was what it feels like for them to be back here with us after coming off such a high.

“It was positive and they’re all really keen to go.

“They’ve been great all week, not just adding their experience to what we’re doing, but they bring a huge amount of leadership with them.  It’s been really good and it’s nice for the other players to see them back and see how they’re going to be able to help us and bring some confidence.”

Someone who has carried a very heavy load in the global rugby showpiece was Eben Etzebeth who could be forgiven for taking more time off to get back in the thick of things.

Not so, says Plumtree.

“The Springboks are keen to get back into it, they are rugby players and they want to play the game.

“It’s great having him [Etzebeth] back. When I asked if he wanted to ease back in and play off the bench, he said that he wanted to start. He’s enthusiastic and you can see why he’s a champion.

“I’ve worked with quality locks like him before and they all show the same traits: their commitment, attitude and professionalism is high and it’s great for our young players to see a guy like that going about his business.”

The excitement in the camp and within the coaching staff is palpable as the Hollywoodbets Sharks look to deliver what they’ve come close to this season.

“We’ve been playing some really good rugby but lacked ruthlessness in terms of our execution, hopefully with more experience in the team now, we’ll take the right options and their skill can put someone away, or they’ll score themselves,” Plumtree explains.

“We want to be competitive and we want to be competitive on the table so we have a lot of work to do to make up for where we’re at and that starts now.”

Looking at the game specifics and the opposition, Plumtree points out that, “The Dragon have shown that they kick a lot of contestable kicks, they have a big driving forward pack and some nice attacking players, so they are definitely going to offer a threat on attack.

“We have to make sure we don’t allow their forward pack to dominate us, that we catch those contestable kicks and that we build some pressure ourselves.

“It’s going to be a good challenge for us.”