Sharks confident of Super Rugby upset
August 1, 2012
Sharks boss John Plumtree is confident his side can overcome the Chiefs in Saturday's Super Rugby finale © Getty Images
Sharks coach John Plumtree is confident his side can upset the odds and beat the Chiefs in Saturday's Super Rugby Final at the Waikato Stadium in Hamilton.
The Durban-based side have already claimed the scalp of Australian Conference winners the Reds and their South African counterparts the Stormers in this year's play-offs while combatting a gruelling travel schedule and they have their eyes set on a third upset in the sold-out season finale.
Kiwi boss Plumtree has taken heart from those battling victories and insists he side also learnt a lot from their 18-12 defeat to the Chiefs in Durban earlier this year during the regular season. "When we played them in Durban we put in a defensive plan for them and it was quite good because it was only a late try that sealed that game for them," Plumtree recalled ahead of his side's fourth final appearance. "I think we are playing better than we were then so if we can get up physically for this game then anything can happen."
His confidence has been echoed by in-form centre JP Pietersen who believes his side can go one better than their previously three final defeats to the Auckland Blues in 1996, the Brumbies in 2001 and the Bulls in 2007.
"What motivates us is the fact that nobody in our group knows what it is like to hold aloft that trophy," Pietersen told Iol.co.za. "The prospect of moving into unchartered territory motivates everyone, from players to coaching staff. We're all very excited for Saturday and the prospect of creating history."
The Springboks international was also full of praise for the Chiefs and pinpointed the early exchanges as key to the destiny of the title. "The Chiefs have been the best team in the competition this season," Pietersen admitted. "They have showed that with their consistency across the whole tournament, and we're in for a huge encounter.
"They have a great attacking game, they have some fantastic attacking backline players (Sonny Bill Williams), as well as big-game loose forwards (Liam Messam). Then you have a guy like (front-rower) Sona Taumalolo, who has scored nine tries off pick-and-goes close to the line, so they are dangerous all-round. They also have a good defensive system and will definitely challenge us when we have ball-in-hand.
"We must keep them at bay in the first 20 minutes. If we want to win this game, we need to be at our best, and everyone needs to bring his 'A' game. It's going to be very tough, it's going to be physical, and if we don't front up and take them on at their own game, we will have a long day. But it's all about the good start and building from there."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
As Ray McLoughlin prepares to celebrate his 75th birthday, Huw Richards pays tribute to the man and the selectors who had the wisdom to bring him into the Ireland fold
John Taylor argues the world's best XVs players must be given a chance to play in the Olympics to increase the appeal of the game
The All Blacks' form is not a peaking issue, but Hansen must threaten to wield his axe, to demand improvement, Craig Dowd writes
"It has been the World Cup that smashed down the gender barriers of the sport." Tom Hamilton looks back at a remarkable tournament