The Citizen (KZN)

Plumtree pleased to see some smiles at the Sharks

- Athenkosi Tsotsi

Sharks coach John Plumtree was pleased to see smiling staff members following the team’s 22-12 win over Ulster in the United Rugby Championsh­ip at Durban’s King Park on Saturday.

The win was the Sharks’ second in this season’s URC campaign, and it was also enough to see them relinquish the title of basement dwellers on the points table as they moved up to 14th place with 14 points. Given how the Sharks have ended up on the losing side a lot this season, a win at home boosted staff morale.

“There’s certainly a lot of relief, it’s just good to see a lot more smiles, it’s been pretty tough,” Plumtree told the media.

“I’m just happy for the players; it’s been frustratin­g times for a lot of people here, including staff.

“So, it’s good to come on Monday with sets of work-ons and not have to pick the team up. Hopefully, we keep building from here,” he said.

Tries from Phepsi Buthelezi (pictured), Eduan Keyter, and Bongi Mbonambi along with seven points from flyhalf Siya Masuku’s boot were enough to give the Sharks the win.

The win was driven by strong performanc­es by the Sharks’

Springboks contingent.

Captain Lukhanyo Am, Eben Etzebeth, Jaden Hendrikse, Makazole Mapimpi and substitute­s Ox Nche and Vincent Koch played a key role in the game.

Plumtree was happy to see his internatio­nals lead from the front and inspire the rest of the team to play hard against Ulster.

“That’s what those big players can do.

“They have a knock-on effect on the other players, and they lift them.

“All of a sudden we saw aspects of our game we hadn’t had working up to now; our scrum was better and our mauling, too,” said Plumtree.

“I’ve encouraged the leaders to step up and own the team and drag the others with them. I was really happy they did that.”

Next up for the Sharks in the URC are Edinburgh at home on Saturday, and they will hope to continue gaining momentum ahead of next month’s crucial Challenge Cup ties.

“We have targeted four games; we have another one here in Durban (against Edinburgh), and then we have got Zebre (in the EPCR) in a game we want to do well in and we want to get a quarterfin­al here so we can get the crowd (behind us). So, it’s four games we are targeting, and this was the first one,” said Plumtree.

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