Sharks manage scrappy win
The Sharks picked up what they were looking for when they scored a 30-14 Absa Currie Cup win over the Pumas in Witbank on Friday night.
The Sharks took just over a quarter of the match to assure themselves of what they were looking for, with four tries in that period ensuring the try-scoring bonus point as well as setting the Durbanites on course for the win that will keep them at least seven points clear at the top of the log regardless of what happens in the remaining games scheduled for this weekend.
But while the Sharks were impressive early on and were clinical in exploiting their territorial advantage as well as capitalising on the Pumas' mistakes, John Plumtree and his fellow coaches are unlikely to head back to the coast in the best of spirits.
They have much work to do before they host the Cheetahs in a key game next weekend, and on this evidence should not be taking anything for granted.
For while the Sharks did dominate the first 20 minutes, and had the major share of possession in the second half, the truth is this was a scrappy performance that did not quite erase the memory of the disappointment of the week before.
The Sharks were scrappy for most of the second hour, and while they had several opportunities to add to their four tries in that period, they could only add three points to the 27 points they had accumulated by the 25 minute mark.
The reason they struggled was their poor finishing and generally sloppy and loose play, and it was clear they are not quite the same team without the absent Bismarck du Plessis and Beast Mtawarira, who are absent because of the Saru/Springbok conditioning requirements.
The half-time score was 27-14 to the Sharks, and as that would suggest, with just three more points added, the second half wasn’t really sticking around or staying up for. It was ironic really, for the Pumas actually shaded the battle for possession in the first half, with the Sharks dominating it in the second -- and yet it was in the first part that the Sharks scored all their points.
Willem Alberts deservedly got the man of the match award for his impressive ball carrying, but it could just as easily have been the busy hooker Craig Burden, who figured in two of the first-half tries, one of which he rounded off himself and the other which he created.
The first came in just the second minute, with Burden making the break as the Sharks set up a close play from a recycle and the hooker surging through before sending in Jacques Botes for the opening score of the match.
The Pumas struck back quickly through a try to Elgar Watts, but the Sharks had the early momentum and it was no surprise when Stefan Terblanche sent in Lwazi Mvovo for try No 2 before a Patrick Lambie penalty made the Sharks lead a comfortable one.
The other wing, Odwa Ndungane, was then quickly into the action by scoring on the left, and then a poor Ronnie Uys pass saw Burden pick up and go over between the posts to make the Sharks score really comfortable at 27-7.
Maybe it was too comfortable, however, for the Sharks then appeared to relax, with the Pumas doing all the attacking in the second quarter of the first half. They were eventually rewarded for all the pressure they exerted with a try one minute ahead of the half-time whistle.
Lambie added one more penalty nine minutes into a second half which the Sharks dominated in terms of both possession and territory but in which they seldom posed the cohesive threat to notch the big win that had threatened earlier and with which they might have scared future opponents.
Barloworld Toyota Pumas – Tries: Elgar Watts, Corne Steenkamp; Conversions: Braam Pretorius (2).
The Sharks – Tries: Jacques Botes, Lwazi Mvovo, Odwa Ndungane, Craig Burden; Conversions: Patrick Lambie (2); Penalties: Lambie (2).