Frustrated Sharks boss admits the Stormers are where they ‘want to be’ after yet another loss

Dylan Coetzee
John Plumtree Sharks head coach URC 2023 - PA.jpg

Sharks head coach John Plumtree.

Sharks head coach John Plumtree admits his side are short of where they need to be relative to the Stormers after losing 25-21 to their Coastal rivals.

The Stormers were without key Springboks trio of Manie Libbok, Damian Willemse and Deon Fourie who were all on a mandatory rest but managed brilliantly with the likes of Sacha Feinburg-Mngomezulu and Warrick Gelant stepping up in their absence as did Evan Roos on the side of the scrum.

The Capetonians had the better start and shot out to a strong lead. It took a while for the Sharks to get going but, particularly during the second period, they showed some promising signs.

Gap too big

Plumtree was happy with his team’s effort but feels the difference between the first and second string sides is too big. He commended the Stormers for being able to remain competitive despite not having their key stars available.

“The Stormers, where they are right now as a team is where we want to be,” Plumtree said. “They worked really hard defensively.

“We created a couple of opportunities, but we didn’t finish them off. They scrambled back and were able to stop us. That’s why they are where they are.

“It’s a tough outfit. I’m just happy we never gave up. We came back into the contest at the end. We didn’t execute that lineout which was a coach killer, but that’s the way it goes.

“I just want us to get better and better and improve. It’s frustrating for me, because I haven’t had the opportunity to work with our full-strength pack, especially in these big derbies.

“Our boys tried real hard today. But there’s a difference between our first group and second group in what we’ve got. That’s a real challenge for us. We need to do well without our Springboks. We’ve had a lot of key players injured this year.

“If we can get more of them back, I reckon we will be a force. But we aren’t there yet. We will get there.”

Route to Champions Cup

The loss means the Sharks stay at the foot of the United Rugby Championship table with very little chance of reaching the top eight and subsequently Champions Cup qualification. There is another route to club rugby’s biggest tournament and that is to win the Challenge Cup.

“We know the opportunity that we’ve got in that space,” Plumtree said. “We’ve got a round of 16 game here and if we win that, then we get a quarter-final and travel overseas for the semi-final.

“When you get to that quarter-final stage, everyone wants to win it. So it will be a tougher competition. Teams are also dropping down from the Champions Cup. If we get through a tough quarter-final here, if we get that opportunity, then we have a tough semi-final and final.

“I’m trying not to stare too much into the crystal ball. I’m not worried about the Challenge Cup right now. The more immediate things to pay attention to is our recruitment, learning more about our players and coaches and letting them learn more about me.

“I’m not making excuses here, but everything about this season has been about jumping into a cold bath. We’ve been working with a new coaching team, us getting to know each other, there have been a lot of injuries, the World Cup Springboks have come back late. So it’s been tough logistically for many reasons.

“It will be easier next year.”

READ MORE: Sharks v Stormers: Five takeaways as Springboks hopefuls shine as visitors claim 15th straight win over local rivals