Sharks coach John Plumtree voiced his disappointment and frustration following his team’s 37-6 loss to the Chiefs in Saturday’s Super Rugby Final.
Plumtree, who in the lead-up to the final said the preceding two weeks were the most memorable of his coaching career, felt the Chiefs got away with underhanded and "illegal" tactics that allowed them to disrupt the Sharks and halt their driving mauls.
"I was a little bit frustrated with some of the off-the-ball stuff, holding defenders and some of the tactics at lineouts were illegal - they were offside all the time so we couldn't get our drives going. We were disappointed it wasn't handled better," Plumtree said.
New Zealand referee Steve Welsh, incidentally, also took charge of the 2007 Super 14 final, the last time the Sharks reached the decider, and missed a clear ruck infringement that led to Bryan Habana scoring a late match-winning try for the visiting Bulls in Durban.
Plumtree was also perplexed by the competition’s Conference system and play-offs schedule that saw his side traverse over 40 000km during the Super Rugby Finals Series despite having accumulated more log points than the Australian Conference-winning Reds.
"They need to look at it, that's probably what the frustration for everyone is,” said Plumtree, adding that a week break between the semi-finals and final would make for a more competitive final.
"Whether you can buy another week (of rest) with the format they've got, with internationals coming up now, I doubt. It would have done us a favour if they did," he said.
Plumtree conceded that travelling played a role in the outcome of the match but admitted it wasn’t the decisive factor. He said his side ultimately let themselves down and praised the Chiefs for their endeavour.
"It would be naive to say the travel didn't take some sort of toll but we were expecting more from ourselves and the Chiefs played very well," he concluded.
By Quintin van Jaarsveld
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