Pleasing Outcome

The Hollywoodbets Sharks 22-10 Vodacom United Rugby Championship victory over Ulster at Hollywoodbets Kings Park on Saturday was an enormously satisfying outcome for the team.

Speaking after the match, Hollywoodbets Sharks head coach John Plumtree admitted that, “I’m really happy for the players, there’s been some pretty frustrating times for a lot of people here, so we’ll come to work on Monday with a few work-ons rather than having to pick the team up emotionally.”

The coach acknowledged the role of the returning Springboks in inspiring the team and how that motivated the young bucks to really put their hands up.

“That’s what those big players do, there’s a knock-on effect, they lift the team around them,” he pointed out. “All of a sudden we saw aspects in our game we haven’t had, our scrum was better, our mauling too.

“We did fluff some chances though, we got into nice places and didn’t finish them off, so we’re not completely accurate in that space and that’s something for us to work on.

“I’ve encouraged the leaders to really step up and own the team and bring the others along with them, so I was really happy that they did that. A lot of hard work has been done, particularly around the pack, to make them a lot better.”

For now, it’s a case of this team playing together, building momentum off this springboard as they launch into the latter half of the 2023/24 season.

“This match and the one against Edinburgh are building up towards the EPCR games, to grow the cohesion we need. That front row we ended with will probably be starting.”

Looking at individual contributions, Plumtree added, “Eben had a good 55 minutes after a fairly long layoff but it was disappointing to lose George Cronje so early in the game, he’s been going well. It looked like an MCL [knee ligament] injury which could be season-ending for him.

“I was also really happy with Ethan Hooker, I thought he played really well. That looks like the arrival of a good young player on the big stage which is great. I thought Eduan Keyter also looked good. It was good to see them shine, mixing up with the experience in the backline.”

With plenty of positives to look back on, Plumtree highlighted one area that really stood out for him as a major contributor to the team’s success on the day.

“It was good to see us able to build pressure  through our set-piece. That’s been a missing ingredient for us. If you look at the Stormers and Bulls, they can all play rugby, but their big threats are what they can do upfront. They can build or relieve pressure through their set-piece and that’s the difference.

“We’ve struggled in that department, so if we want to win a game of rugby without our big boys upfront, we have to play a different style of game. But when you have your big boys, you don’t have to play that well to get a try because you get a scrum penalty, two drives and you score a try. It’s not much rugby, but it’s seven points and that’s something we haven’t had.

“So it was good to see that in this match, what we can do when we have the right personnel. And when we gel and get more cohesive, we’ll be even better.”

An important period of rugby has arrived and Plumtree acknowledged the boost this victory provides.

“This win gives us a lot of confidence. We’ve targeted four games: this one, another next week and then the EPCR game against Zebre that we want to do really well in to get a home quarter-final.

“This one is done, we know we have a tough one against Edinburgh coming up and then we can look forward to those EPCR matches coming up.”