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By Athenkosi Tsotsi

Sports Reporter

Plumtree optimistic about Sharks’ chances against Oyonnax

The Sharks will be able to secure their place in the Challenge Cup playoffs with a win against Oyonnax.

The Sharks are hoping to end their three-game losing streak when they take on French Top 14 outfit Oyonnax in a Challenge Cup showdown at Durban’s Kings Park (3 pm) on Saturday.

The Durban side are hurting after suffering heart-crushing consecutive URC derby losses to the Cheetahs, Stormers and Lions, with the Challenge Cup a welcome distraction for them.

Saturday’s clash with Oyonnax and next Sunday’s meeting with fellow URC side the Dragons gives them a chance of getting back-to-back wins and securing a spot in the knockout stages of the Challenge Cup.

Winning mission

The Sharks will have to tackle these assignments without their coach John Plumtree, who will be in New Zealand attending to a family matter. Leaving the team in the hands of his lieutenant Dave Williams, Plumtree is optimistic about the Sharks building a winning run in his absence.

“If we can get a win (this weekend) and then go do a job in Wales, we’ll potentially be contending for a quarter-final, which would be great…especially if it were a home one. That’s certainly the plan,” said Plumtree.

“There’s been a lot of frustration here in the last few weeks; we have lost a lot of close encounters. We need to find some wins to get the confidence up with the group so that we can get on a winning run rather than a losing one,” he said.

‘Typical French side’

Oyonnax will have an element of surprise as the Sharks don’t know much about them. From what they have gathered through their analysis, the Sharks have branded them a traditional French team.

“They’re a typical French side; they are very physical and have got a good offload game going. They play with a lot of continuity in their game, they have done pretty well,” Plumtree said.

“We are expecting a tough challenge, we don’t know if it’s their full strength side or not. Ultimately at the end of the day, it does not matter to us. We are trying to get our game going, the game we want to play for 80 minutes,” he said.

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