Plumtree is poised to return to Sharks as head coach

rugby06 March 2023 15:21| © SuperSport
By:Gavin Rich
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John Plumtree © Getty Images

Former Cell C Sharks John Plumtee could shorty be back working out of HollywoodBets Kings Park as the Durban franchise looks to shake up its coaching structures going forward.

Neil Powell, the Sharks’ director of rugby and currently doubling as head coach following the departure of Sean Everitt in late October, told the post-match press conference following the Sharks’ defeat to the DHL Stormers in Cape Town at the weekend that an announcement will be made on a new coach in the coming weeks.

“We obviously have some people in mind that will come in at the end of the season,” said Powell.

“That is going pretty well and the people we are talking to will be able to take the Sharks to the next level. We will go with a combination of what we have and what we have tried to establish already as a foundation. We are in a good space in terms of that. Hopefully we will be able to announce the new coaching structures in the next few weeks or so.”

It is understood that Plumtree is the man in the Sharks’ sights. He was in South Africa last October and met with Sharks role-players then, but it went quiet after that, presumably because the Sharks wanted to see if Powell, who was an outstanding Sevens coach but is new to the conventional 15-man game, could make it on his own as head coach.

Powell, who played scrumhalf in his playing days, probably wasn’t helped by the premature departure of Everitt, who is now at the Bulls.

When the Springboks are present, it appears as though the Sharks can get away with their lack of coaching experience, but the Sharks’ record when they don’t have their marquee players present makes depressing reading and suggests that Everitt wasn’t the problem.

Although the Sharks came back strongly at the end and nearly stole the Stormers game, they were outplayed for most of the coastal derby by a Stormers team that just never took its opportunities and which may have been guilty of thinking they had the game won when they led 26-6.


The Stormers humbled their opponents 46-19 in the first round game in Durban and that might have led to complacency.

That view is underlined by the fact that when the Sharks did suddenly find themselves competing for the win, the Stormers tightened up and lifted a gear.

They played possibly their most faultless rugby of the match during the last eight minutes when the Sharks were back in it and they were down to 13 men because of yellow cards.

The lack of nous shown by the Sharks in that period of eight minutes at the end also sent out the message that the Durbanites may require a strong, experienced and tactically sound coach to take charge, with the often mentioned recruitment issue at the Sharks also becoming more and more of a talking point.

It is understood Plumtree will be in Durban shortly to meet with the Sharks administration, but his potential future employers can perhaps expect some tough questions from the New Zealander before he signs on the dotted line.

Someone with Plumtree’s experience will want to know what the chain of command is and will want to be the man in charge without having to deal with interference of any sort.

Plumtree coached the Sharks from 2008 after rejoining the union/franchise he represented as a player in the 1990s in 2007, when the Sharks went to the Super 14 final with Dick Muir as the head coach and Plumtree as his assistant. He left the union when he was axed following a change of chief executive at the franchise.

Subsequent to then Plumtree has accumulated experience in Ireland, where he was assistant to Joe Schmidt at international level, as well as New Zealand, where he served as the Hurricanes head coach and assistant as well as forwards coach of the All Blacks until he made way in a coaching team shake-up last July.

The experience he has accumulated in the decade since he left Durban will make him a better coach than he was when he last sat in the Sharks dugout and will be a significant step towards establishing the Sharks as the major player that they should be given the financial riches that have come their way courtesy of their American equity partners.