When he was Springbok coach Jake White often used to remark on the way Australian teams managed to blunt the power of opposition scrums by living close to the barrier that separates the legal from the illegal, but now he finds himself with the boot on the other foot.
White’s Brumbies team face the Sharks in a crucial Vodacom Super Rugby match at Kings Park on Saturday, and Sharks coach John Plumtree has indulged in a bit of psychological warfare by accusing the Brumbies of not being entirely legal with the way they walk around the opposing tighthead at scrum time.
After getting what he thought was the rough end of the stick when it came to scrum penalties in last week’s game, Plumtree has appealed to Saturday’s referee, Jonathan Kaplan, to be strict in policing that aspect of the game.
“We conceded one penalty and one free kick in our opening two games and on the weekend we conceded four in one half against the Kings in Port Elizabeth,” said Plumtree.
“It doesn’t make sense. It wasn’t a good day at the office scrum-wise for referee Jason Jaftha, and he will admit that. He also wasn’t helped by a decision from the assistant referee. When you have a dominant scrum and don’t get reward for it, that can be very frustrating.
“So we’re pleased to have Jonathan Kaplan refereeing this match. There are some thing we’ve spotted with the Brumbies scrum that we aren’t happy with. They’ve been penalised for that in some of the previous games, and we hope Jonathan looks after those attempts to depower our scrum. We’re hoping they (the Brumbies) don’t get away with it this weekend.”
Plumtree added that the breakdowns were another area where the Brumbies had treaded close to the line.
“We know what to expect from Jonathan, we’ve had him many times. He’s a strong ref and that’s what we want. The breakdown is an area where the Brumbies have conceded lots of penalties in the last couple of games, so we need to be very accurate and hopefully he will be really strict on the breakdown and the scrumming.”
However while he would like the Brumbies’ tactics to be policed closely, Plumtree clearly has a lot of respect for the way that White has turned his new team into a real force, and the Sharks are approaching the game as if it is a derby match against another South African team.
“They’re clearly the best team in Australia right now. The Brumbies are very direct from the set-piece, they put a huge emphasis on the advantage line battle, and they have a clever kicking game. There isn’t one thing they do well, they do several things well. They’re not top of their conference for nothing and they are playing some really good rugby. We are going to need to be very organised from a defensive point of view. And from an attack point of view we want to play a lot better than we did last weekend.”
The Sharks team for the Brumbies game will be announced later in the week, but Plumtree has hinted that there may be some changes at the back, although he is reluctant to blame the misfiring attack game only on failures in the backline.
“There were areas of the backs’ game that we were disappointed with in Port Elizabeth and they were disappointed with themselves as well. But the forwards have some responsibility in terms of how we play on attack and they let themselves down in certain areas.”
There is a good chance Keegan Daniel will return as captain after enjoying a good training week following a six week break because of injury.
“Keegan may start, and he will back himself to play. If he does play, he will captain the team. Frans Steyn had a bad a neck injury that was troubling him last week. I could tell by the way he was playing that he wasn’t happy in the game, so I got him off. But Frans is feeling a lot better this week, so I’m sure he will be alright.”
Article source: http://www.supersport.com/rugby/article.aspx?Id=1832954