Plumtree: 'Eben is quite inspirational'
REACTION: It was the performance Sharks coach John Plumtree had been waiting for and on Saturday night the Sharks, spearheaded by sterling performances by their Springboks, delivered in their Challenge Cup victory over Pau.
Lukhanyo Am and man of the match Eben Etzebeth stepped up as both scored a brace in the 45-5 pummelling of Pau while Makazole Mapimpi also scored after a bolstering run by Ox Nche.
Plumtree was understandably elated with the result, as he was with his Boks, and heaped praise on his senior charges for the way in which they helped the team bounce back from a tough week after the massive loss to the Bulls.
“As a leader Lukhanyo is getting used to me and I am getting used to him. We are starting to have a good understanding of how we both operate. I was pleased to see him doing well,” the coach said.
He also talked about Etzebeth and how he has managed to slot in with the side after coming off the tremendous high of winning the World Cup.
“He has been back a couple of weeks now and he is starting to get into the Sharks way and he is starting to lead and inspire others and help the younger locks.
“He is pretty inspirational and it’s not easy for a guy like that to come back off a World Cup win and get back into his club and start performing straight away. So it was good tonight to see him doing that. Hopefully he will just go from strength to strength.”
The coach gave an insight into the difficult week they had after taking the Bulls beating on the chin.
“It was a pretty tough week after the Bulls game. Monday was a tough day for the players.
“All we can do is respond in a positive way. We just had to focus on ourselves and put a lot of heat on the leaders to step up and run the week. I thought they were great and I thought they were really good out there tonight too,” he revealed.
— EPCR Challenge Cup (@ChallengeCup_) December 9, 2023
The Sharks responded in a positive way and despite the rainy weather, delivered a far better performance, although Plumtree was not happy with what they put on display for the full 80 minutes.
“We got sloppy and they were sloppy too. The game just fizzled out. It was pretty disappointing really. Our skill sets let us down in the last 20 minutes and I think the boys will be really disappointed with that.
“To me it looked like the boys got a bit bored with the contest and that was frustrating. Our set piece last week wasn’t great and tonight it was better.
“I was pleased with aspects of our game and how we kicked the ball behind them and kept the pressure on them. And we dominated the territory in the first half so there were aspects of our game that wasn’t really pleasing.”
The Sharks travel to Bloemfontein next week where they face the Cheetahs that also recorded a comfortable over Zebre (33-15) in their first round clash of the Challenge Cup.
“Next week against the Cheetahs will be another derby. They had a good win. So that’s going to be a challenge for us. We have to maintain our consistency.
“It’s not about the result, it’s about how we play. We have a nice eight day turn-around because we have Sunday kick-off.”