Sharks extend dominance over Cape rivals
The Sharks extended their dominance of their arch-rivals from Cape Town in big competitions as they made the better of their opportunities in a wet weather game to score a 43-27 Absa Currie Cup win over Western Province at a soaked Kings Park in Durban on Saturday.
WP's indiscipline contributed to a farcical finish, with the Sharks playing against just 12 men as they hunted down the fourth try that clinched them the bonus point that enabled them to draw level with the Golden Lions at the top of the log after six matches.
Perhaps it was the frustration of making a habit of coming second to the Sharks -- this was their fourth consecutive defeat -- that got the better of WP, but while Wilhelm van Sluys could be excused for the yellow card as the Sharks milked his late charge six minutes from time, there was no excuse for the punches that earned red cards for Jebb Sinclair and Tyrone Holmes in the second half.
It would probably be fair comment to suggest though that referee Lourens van der Merwe should have taken a stronger hand from the start, and when a game ends with 12 players playing against 15, and a five man scrum packing down against an eight man unit, it just detracts from the game.
The five Province forwards struggled to contain an eight-man Sharks pack through a series of defensive scrums that finally resulted in Van der Merwe awarding a penalty try to the Sharks. In the conditions it was quite a feat for the Sharks to score four tries, but then the difference in numbers in the last quarter, which was when the Sharks really took control, was a marked one.
The final scoreline never told the full story of a match which, until the events of the last quarter, delivered surprising quality for the conditions. It was a night better suited to ducks or water-polo, with the torrential rain that had fallen on Durban for two days turning the Kings Park playing surface into something that wasn’t far short of being reminiscent of the famous World Cup semifinal between the Springboks and France in 1995.
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SLIPPING AND SLIDING
In terms of spectacle though this was a better game than that one and there was a surprising degree of both handling skill and intent from both teams in the first half. WP were probably better than the four point deficit at halftime. They dominated both possession and territory in the first 40, with the Sharks being forced to make three times as many tackles and Province enjoying 69% of the possession while camping in Sharks territory.
But one thing you don’t want to be doing in conditions like that is chasing the game, and in that respect the crucial score of the match was the Jacques Botes try that broke a 6-all deadlock in the 18th minute and put the Sharks into a lead they were never to relinquish. Unsurprisingly it came courtesy of a tactical kick, Sharks newcomer Rosko Specman hoofing the ball over the forwards and Odwa Ndungane winning a race against the sliding WP defenders before the ball made its way to Botes, who aquaplaned over the line.
With so much slipping and sliding going on, and huge splashes of water advertising just how waterlogged the field was, a seven point lead was vital -- even if the final scoreline might not suggest it. WP’s kicking game was better than the Sharks' in the first half, but apart from a run from JP du Plessis that was halted just short of the tryline shortly before halftime, WP did not create the same number of scoring opportunities that the Sharks did.
Sharks skipper Keegan Daniel was right to say afterwards that his men played the conditions better, and there may have been times in the second half where WP were guilty of trying to play too much rugby from the wrong areas of the field. At the same time though, the penalties that Meyer Bosman kicked in the first 10 minutes of the second half to give his team a 10 point lead arguably left Province with little option.
The Sharks had led 16-12 at the break, with Demetri Catrakilis kicking four penalties to the three penalties and a conversion that the equally accurate Meyer Bosman added to Botes’s try.
Although WP did strike back with two tries from replacement scrumhalf Louis Schreuder, one of them when they were down to 13 men, the Sharks effectively wrapped up the match when Daniel vaulted over a loose-scrum to go over untouched with 19 minutes remaining. Another try was added by Botes off a driving maul in the last 10 minutes before the 15 against 12 scenario condemned the game to a bad tempered finish.
While WP made extensive use of the driving maul off lineouts, something that was wise in the conditions, the Sharks did well to stop them, and it was the home team’s defensive effort that secured them the result.
Sharks 43 – Tries: Jacques Botes 2, Keegan Daniel and penalty try;
Conversions: Meyer Bosman 4; Penalties: Meyer Bosman 5.
27 – Tries: Louis Schreuder 2; Conversion: Demetri Catrakilis; Penalties: Demetri Catrakilis 5.