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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

A betting man would put money on John Plumtree to return as Sharks coach

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Durban — When the Sharks lost to the Bulls in the quarter-finals of the United Rugby Championship earlier this year the target was already on the back of coach Sean Everitt and he was almost shown the door after that campaign.

Instead, he was given more time to prove to the American consortium that bought the Sharks that he could get a return on their investment, but businessmen are impatient and when a second-string Sharks team lost 35-0 to Cardiff on Sunday, Everitt was gone within 24 hours.

This is most unfortunate because Everitt is a very good rugby coach, scholar, and gentleman, but I understand how it works in professional sport, and when bosses are dissatisfied, it is easier to change one man (the coach) than it is to sack a squad of players or a raft of assistants.

It happens in British soccer all the time.

Speaking of assistants, the Sharks have a small army of them and I wonder if too many cooks are spoiling the broth.

The Sharks are tight-lipped on a successor to Everitt and have only said that director of rugby Neil Powell will do the job in the meantime, and the idea is for him to find his feet at the Sharks after joining them not long ago after a long career with the Blitzboks.

But the Sharks will need a new head coach in due course and that reminds me … I saw their former coach John Plumtree at club rugby’s Murray Cup final a month ago in Durban and while he would not engage on the possibility of a return to the Shark Tank, it is likely he chatted with the top brass at Kings Park.

Plumtree was in town to visit family (he is married to a South African), but he and Lara could well have been checking if their old house in Durban north is on the market again.

Plumtree, a Natal player in the 1990s, coached the Sharks from 2008 to 2012 and then spent two years assisting Joe Schmidt at Ireland, then was head coach of the Hurricanes for four years during which time he assisted Japan at the World Cup in 2019, before graduating to the All Blacks where he was forwards coach for two years.

Plumtree was the Fall Guy at the All Blacks when they struggled earlier this year and he then spent time assisting Gary Gold with the USA team.

Plumtree is now between jobs and it is very difficult to find an A-list coach currently not contracted, so a Plumtree enriched with 10 years of overseas experience, and a Sharks team with no coach, make a perfect fit.

I wonder if Plumtree watched the loss to Cardiff and considered the perils of coaching a squad that has too many players away on international duty for long periods and when the team is understrength, as was the case on Sunday, they are essentially a Currie Cup team.

That is why I felt for Everitt on Sunday evening … his team was close to the side that lost to Griquas in the Currie Cup a few months ago. No coach on the planet can expect a Currie Cup team to beat United Rugby Championship opposition.


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