Challenge Cup: Sharks taking confidence into Cheetahs derby

Challenge Cup: Sharks taking confidence into Cheetahs derby

The Sharks will take plenty of confidence from their EPCR Challenge Cup win over Section Paloise at Kings Park on Saturday.

Head coach John Plumtree, reflecting on the team's opening success, explained that the team had galvanised behind a common goal which delivered the result, one they know they will need to follow up in round two.

"We weren't really sure what Pau side was going to come, but that didn't really matter, the focus was on ourselves," said Plumtree.

"I also put a lot of heat on the leaders to step up and run the week and I thought they were great, and they were really good out there [during the game]. That was really pleasing to see."

The response after the Bulls' game was all about the way the leaders led so that everyone else would follow, a plan that came to fruition in exciting and emphatic fashion.

"The pressure was put on the team leaders to take ownership of the team. There was a big shift in that space in the week before the game. It™s up to our leaders and most experienced players to lead the way for our younger ones and I thought they did that really well.

"Our focus was also on the effort we wanted the players to put in and we wanted an improvement on that. The game is mental and physical and against Pau we saw a big shift in that space. The challenge is for us to maintain that against the Cheetahs."

What was also pleasing was the way the Sharks fronted up in the tight exchanges, overpowering their French opponents in the driving mauls and making good gains at the contest.

"It was good to have a couple of big bodies in there, they enjoy that," said Plumtree,

"When we're full strength, that will become a good weapon for us. Our set-piece the previous week wasn't great but in this game it was better."

As far as the coach determined, this was up there with the standard of play he wants to see from his team.

"I was pleased with most aspects in our game," he admitted.

"We stepped up the collision, won a lot of those battles which gave us front foot, quick ball that we needed. I was also pleased with the way we kicked the ball behind them, kept the pressure on them and dominated territory in the first half. There were aspects that were really pleasing because we got it going."

Building consistency in the coming weeks, starting with the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Sunday, is paramount now as the team look more settled and able to gain some momentum, not only in results but the standard of play.

"This goes back to being another derby game," continued Plumtree.

"They got a good win [over Zebre] so that's going to be a challenge for us. It's maintaining that level of consistency. It's not about the result as much as how we prepare and how we play. The result always looks after itself."

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