Rugby: Hurricanes wary of bogey team Sharks

By Campbell Burnes

The Sharks may be rank underdogs for Saturday's Super Rugby quarter-final in Wellington, but the Hurricanes are not preparing for a romp. Photo / Getty Images.
The Sharks may be rank underdogs for Saturday's Super Rugby quarter-final in Wellington, but the Hurricanes are not preparing for a romp. Photo / Getty Images.

The Sharks may be rank underdogs for Saturday's Super Rugby quarter-final in Wellington, but the Hurricanes are not preparing for a romp.

Far from it. They still feel the pain of the 32-15 loss to the Sharks in May.

So while some pundits are predicting the Sharks will limp into the capital, feel the cold wind and get pumped by the Hurricanes, who are suddenly motivated by a throwaway line from a former Wallabies hooker five months ago, John Plumtree knows better.

"One thing about the Sharks, they don't mind touring New Zealand," says the Hurricanes assistant coach, who was at the tiller of the Sharks for several seasons. "The Hurricanes, I think, have beaten them just twice in the last eight occasions. So we have a horrible record against them," said the Hurricanes assistant coach, who was at the tiller of the Sharks for several seasons.

"The Sharks know what they have to do to beat us. They have a lot of massive characters in that team."

The Hurricanes would have pored over the footage of that last defeat to the Sharks. They'll know what is required, particularly as far as their tactical approach.

"They manhandled us, slowed down our ball, our lineout didn't function. We turned over 28 balls," Plumtree said.

The Sharks, under their astute coach Gary Gold, will look to their seasoned and speedy three-quarter line of Odwa Ndungane, Lwazi Mvovo and JP Pietersen, who may be playing his final match for the team. In the pack, prop Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira returns after being rested for the 40-29 win over the Sunwolves that booked their playoffs berth, just ahead of the Bulls, as the third South African side.

"They've got some big ball carriers and they are pretty effective choke tacklers, have a good drive and the set-piece is sound. They had the best defence in the competition, conceding the least tries of all the teams. They are a tough wall to break down, and they are a very capable side," warned Plumtree.

And while some were trying to make a connection between the saga when five players - Cory Jane, the Saveas, Victor Vito and Chris Eves were stood down for narrowly missing a curfew in Durban - and their resurgence since that match, it is not uppermost in the minds of the Hurricanes as they go about their preparation, which has clearly got better.

Halfback TJ Perenara, who had a big game against the Crusaders, knows what the Hurricanes must do, and not do, in a quarter-final week.

"We know that the last five weeks mean nothing if we don't play well this week. They are a good team, big boys who run hard. We experienced it, so we know we've got our hands full.

"They counter-attacked us pretty well, and lived off a lot of things we did poorly, so we need to take ownership of our skillset."

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