What John Plumtree’s Sharks ‘clearly’ need to work on over ‘next year or two’

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

Sharks head coach John Plumtree.

Sharks head coach John Plumtree admits he desperately needs to build depth in his squad to compete with the rigours of playing in two tournaments.

Plumtree is no stranger to Durban having played and coached the Sharks during Super Rugby days, however, a key difference this time around is the side playing in both the United Rugby Championship and Challenge Cup simultaneously.

With the schedules between the two tournaments not optimising it means teams often have to travel a great deal, putting pressure on squad depth. The Sharks of course do have a great squad but perhaps are a bit thin of proven stars outside of their preferred 30 or so players.

Tricky start to second tenure

It has been a tough return for Plumtree as the Sharks have only managed a single win in seven games this season. Still, the coach remains positive and believes the break the team had last weekend was a well-timed rest for the side he has not had a chance to rotate much.

“I think the break was good timing for us,” said Plumtree.

“A lot of guys have played a lot of rugby. I haven’t been able to rotate the squad like I want to and that hasn’t been healthy.

“If you look at most of the other teams, they have rotated their squad more and I had to overplay some guys for different reasons.

“That’s what has happened and I think the break has come at the right time for us.

“This week has been good and we are looking forward to the challenge and we know what a massive challenge it is.”

The New Zealander described playing in two tournaments as “brutal” and insists depth is a huge factor.

“Clearly we got a lot of work to do over the next year or two around our squad depth because the season is just brutal in terms of its intensity.”

Looking for momentum

Part of the reason Plumtree has not rotated is the search for some sort of momentum to find that 80-minute performance that has been lacking this campaign.

“We are fielding a full-strength side every week. I haven’t been rotating at all and that is part of the problem,” he explained.

“It will be a full-strength side next week and it will be a full-strength side the following week and we have to do that right now.

“Until I feel like we have the squad, we are still firing away. We still want to make that top eight and we still want to do well in the EPCR [Challenge Cup].

“I just got to keep rolling with what I feel I’ve got and we might rotate a couple of positions and change a couple of things as we go.

“However, right now it is about working as hard as we can with the group I feel can do well.

“We have scored some pretty good tries and we have had some good moments, but we have not been good enough as a collective to put all that into an 80-minute package.

“In many ways, we are still finding our way and we just haven’t managed to put together a collective performance that allows us to build enough pressure to beat a really good team.

“Until we are in that space, we are always going to be disappointed. We will get there, but we are not there yet.”

The Sharks continue their season against the Stormers in Cape Town for a thrilling Coastal Derby on Saturday.

READ MORE: Five storylines to watch in the URC including the Coastal Derby, surprise package and 1872 Cup