‘No going back’: Plumtree sticks to guns on Sharks’ new style despite losses
Sharks coach John Plumtree will not give up and go back to the old way of doing things, despite his attempt to implement a new style of play failing to yield results in the early stages of the United Rugby Championship (URC).
The Sharks have failed to win a game in the URC in 2023-24, losing all five games under new boss Plumtree. The men from the Zulu kingdom suffered their fifth successive defeat when they went down 13-12 to Connacht at Kings Park on Saturday.
They suffered four defeats in their month-long tour of Europe, with a high error rate the common denominator. Their performances have not always been poor and they have created chances with lack of sharpness upfront a major let down.
Plumtree emphasised that when you are going through changes, especially involving style of play, problems can arise while players adapt.
“I’ve been saying it all week, and I will keep saying it, we are playing a different style of rugby [compared to what] the Sharks have been playing for a good number of years. We are playing that game with the same players so there are going to be teething problems,” Plumtree said after the Connacht home defeat.
“Some players, for their skill set, it is challenging — but there’s no going back. I’m not going to go back to kicking the ball away and trying to create opportunities through luck.
“I want to try to build pressure through us being able to play good rugby and [Sharks attack coach] Dave Williams has done a good job in that space. But again, I say that we are not clinical enough and we need to help them [the players] fix that.
“For the supporters, I don’t like losing because I’ve never lost as many games. It's new for me too. It’s really important to understand that on Monday we are our hardest critics.
“We will go through that game again, looking at all the stuff we have talked about in this press conference. Of course, the media will go hard on us, but they won’t be as hard as we will go on ourselves. So we will be OK.”
The coach was impressed with most of his players at Kings Park, including Springbok star Lukhanyo Am, who made his comeback on Saturday after a long period out.
“I’m loving that they are doing everything I’ve asked them to do. I’ve got to take responsibility for that [individual mistakes]. We are still not quite clinical enough.
“We are getting the opportunities, but we are not ruthless. We played the most rugby tonight, and I’m really proud about that because that’s what I came here to do but our line-outs didn’t function as well as they could have.
“I’m hurting but I’m hurting mainly for the team because they are trying really hard but they are not getting any reward.
“They are a young group and it’s tough for them because every week we are working but we just can’t get over the line. We have lost two games by one point. But we will get there.”
As the only team that has failed to win a match this season, the Sharks remain rooted at the foot of the URC table with two points.
Plumtree is not overly concerned about that as he believes there are enough games to play to finish secure a top eight spot that comes with a knockout place and participation in next season’s European Champions Cup.
The coach's response to a suggestion the Sharks are not competitive enough? “You think we are not competitive? We have lost two games by one point, and we have lost another by nine points, and we have lost to two top sides in Ireland at the start of the competition. I think we are being competitive.”
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