Challenge Cup – “We Are Not Perfect By Any Means” – John Plumtree


After a tight first half against Edinburgh in the EPCR Challenge Cup quarter-final at Hollywoodbets Kings Park on Saturday, the Hollywoodbets Sharks blew their opponents away in a clinical, dominant second-half performance to win 36-30.

However, Hollywoodbets Sharks Head coach John Plumtree warned that there’s more to come, from both preparation as well as performance.

“Heading to the semis where the Hollywoodbets Sharks will play Clermont Auvergne at the Twickenham Stoop on Saturday 4 May, the team is in a good place both physically in terms of performance, as well as mentally with the confidence they take from a run of four consecutive victories across the two tournaments they’re competing in," Plumtree said.

But Plumtree warned that there’s more to come, from both preparation as well as performance.

“We’re not perfect by any means, we have a couple of big games in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship before we get to the semi-final. We’ll use the next two to build our game.”

He also advised that there would be team changes coming up: “There are a few guys who have had a big workload so we’ll freshen them up.”

John Plumtree admitted after the game that there were a few important points to get across when the team gathered in the changerooms at half-time.

“It was an easy story to tell at half-time,” he pointed out.

“It wasn’t a time to panic, the boys were a bit quiet and it wasn’t all going according to plan, we needed to tidy up two or three things. One was our discipline. The other was our skillsets, we were turning ball over and not playing well, it looked like our confidence was taking a bit of a bash."

“We also had to do quite a bit of defending, we had around 38% territory and possession, we had no ball or territory. It was pretty much what we did to them in the previous match, they were doing it to us."

“We also had to win the referee over by being more disciplined, that was a big message.”

“It was about just believing in ourselves, that if we could tidy up with our skillsets, both forwards and backs, we could get on top of them. I felt that if we could build pressure on attack we could get them, and we also had to be more patient defensively because we were either going offsides or conceding penalties at the ruck which was allowing them to get into our corner and the yellow card applied more pressure.”

Edinburgh had clearly come to fight and they put up a strong showing, more so than the previous contest a fortnight earlier.

“They knew what to expect, and we did too, although it’s never easy for both sets of coaching groups because you never know what they’re going to change. I thought they did a great job on us by applying that pressure and they would have been favoured at half-time."

“But it just comes back to us nailing a few things and getting on top of them. Once we did that, we knew the confidence would come and the crowd would get behind us.”

The second-half performance delivered exactly what was needed and Plumtree acknowledged the role of the forwards in laying the foundation for a trip to the semi-finals, the first time a South African team has gone this far in the EPCR.

“The battle is won upfront and built around a pack that builds pressure. Also around the contestable kicking game, if you win that battle and get your discipline right, those things go a long way into winning."

“But you still need quality moments. I thought Makazole Mapimpi came up with that with Lukhanyo Am’s try, James Venter’s try on the right edge was a beauty and then the pack went to work in the second half. Again, Ox, Vincent and Bongi were massive upfront against a good Scottish front row."