Sharks savage tame Leopards
The log-leading Sharks secured a Currie Cup home semifinal by romping to a 63-6 (halftime 35-6) win over the bottom-placed Leopards in the penultimate round of league action at Absa Stadium in Durban on Friday night.
The win gave the Durbanites, now on 52 points, an almost unassailable nine-point lead at the top of the log with one match to play, with only second-placed Western Province, who lock horns with the Blue Bulls on Saturday, able to overtake them to secure pole position for a possible home final.
But WP will have to not only beat the Bulls with a bonus point, but repeat the feat against the Sharks at Newlands next week when the two sides meet in the final match of the competition’s round-robin stages.
Funnier things have happened, of course, but on the evidence of Friday’s match John Plumtree’s men will be fancied to keep the chasing pack at bay as the business end of the competition draws ever closer and the rest of the teams jockey for semifinal places and home advantage in the playoffs.
The Sharks got off to a not-unexpected flying start against the competition’s wooden-spoonists when, from a lineout on the Leopards’ 22, eighthman Keegan Daniel ghosted his way through a non-existent defence to dive over in the left-hand corner. It set the tone for the evening, although at times the home side’s intensity did slip, which made for scrappy periods against the men from Potchefstroom.
Flyhalf André Pretorius, enjoying a start ahead of the precocious teenager Patrick Lambie, nailed the first of six conversions in a solid performance for the injury-prone former Springbok pivot.
The Leopards got onto the scoresheet when flyhalf Clayton Durand kicked an easy penalty but that man Daniel crashed over for his second try with just 12 minutes gone when the eighthman, wearing the suspended Ryan Kankowski’s jersey, launched off the back of a solid Sharks scrum five metres out.
The game thereafter quickly took on the appearance of a glorified training match when prop Jannie du Plessis scored his team’s third try five minutes later by simply bulldozing his way through some lacklustre defence.
The bonus-point try came with less than a quarter of the match gone, hooker and former wing Craig Burden powering through the midfield before offloading to flying fullback Louis Ludik on his outside.
The Sharks then lost their shape somewhat but still managed to grab a fifth try when winger Odwa Ndungane celebrated his 50th match with a try on the hooter.
The second half was barely three minutes old when Ndungane was at it again, coasting in for Pretorius to make it six out of six with the boot before his wing partner Lwazi Mvovo picked up his 12th try of the season on the hour mark.
Prop Eugene van Staden brought up the half-century when he burrowed over from close range with 12 minutes remaining and Lambie, on for Pretorius, saw his conversion ricochet off the posts and between the uprights to rub salt in the wounds.
Sharks 63 – Tries: Keegan Daniel (2), Jannie du Plessis (2), Louis Ludik, Odwa Ndungane (2), Lwazi Mvovo, Eugene van Staden. Conversions: André Pretorius (6), Patrick Lambie (3).
Leopards 6 – Penalties: Clayton Durand (2).