An unconvincing win

2013-09-16 00:00

WESTERN Province, bravely, and the Sharks, unconvincingly, retained their first and second positions on the Currie Cup log with contrasting away victories at the weekend.

The Sharks, again struggling in the set pieces and elsewhere, left it agonisingly late, but showed character in the final quarter to beat Griquas 25-24, while enterprising Province, reduced to 14 men after flank Michael Rhodes was red-carded for stamping, were decisive winners at Loftus where they beat the Blue Bulls 29-18.

Province head the log on 20 points followed by the Sharks (19) and the Cheetahs (16). The Sharks face a home game against the Free Staters on Saturday afternoon and will have to show a dramatic improvement if they are to stay in contention for a home semi-final.

The Sharks were again made to battle in Kimberley where they have not won since 2009.

This time they did enough, just, to squeak home with a try by tighthead prop Wiehahn Herbst in the 75th minute, edging them ahead when Griquas were down to 14 men, after captain and hooker Ryno Barnes had been yellow-carded for frequent transgressions at the breakdown.

It was a Sharks’ performance which threw up more problems than solutions for their coaches, who have frequently said they are concentrating “on performance rather than results”.

While the Sharks will be mightily relieved to win at a venue where all Currie Cup teams struggle, the coaching staff will be concerned at the sloppy lineout work, their vulnerable scrum, their inability to deal with kick-offs, the litany of handling errors, the many missed tackles and the lack of an attacking edge.

Remarkably, in spite of all their limitations, they still squeaked home as Griquas’ discipline failed them in the second half and they conceded a dozen penalties, allowing the Sharks to dominate the latter stages of an untidy contest. The Sharks would have avoided the tense final minutes had replacement flyhalf Fred Zeilinga not missed four goal-kicks out of six in the final quarter.

There were flashes of bright rugby — from Tim Whitehead, Lwazi Movo, Keegan Daniel and Pieter-Steph du Toit — but it was really only the ugly win that mattered on the day.

Backline coach Sean Everitt said yesterday that the Sharks had battled to gain any momentum because of the eight penalties conceded in the first half, the high error-rate and the lost lineouts.

“In the second half, the guys came out and showed tremendous character and only conceded one penalty.

“It’s a huge achievement to beat Griquas in Kimberley. Sharks teams have struggled there over the years and we managed to turn that around.

“Province came away with a one-point win and the Lions battled it out until the 82nd minute to win that game last week. So we’re ecstatic with the win, it puts us in a healthy position on the log and obviously we’re still contenders for the top spot.”

Everitt praised the efforts of Du Toit on his return from injury.

“As a youngster, calling the lineout is a huge responsibility and I think he did exceptionally well.

“This is a happy team. In every game we’ve played, we’ve managed to come back from a deficit. We’ve managed to win and at the end of the day that shows the character of the group.”

At Loftus, referee Marius Jonker sent Province’s Rhodes from the field for “dangerous use of the boot” as Bulls captain Jono Ross attempted to tackle him.

Province took the decision in their stride and immediately scored another try to lead 20-6 at the break.

The Bulls came back in the second half, but Province, helped by a string of penalties, kept their distance for the 11-point win.

The Cheetahs led 23-3 at half time against the Lions in Bloemfontein on Friday night, but then dozed off and they needed a last-minute penalty by Riaan Smit for their 26-23 win.

SATURDAY’S SCORERS

Griquas 24 — Tries: Marnus Schoeman, Burger Schoeman; Conversion: Francois Brummer; Penalties: Brummer (4). Sharks 25 — Tries: Sizo Maseko, Wiehahn Herbst; Penalties: Butch James (3), Fred Zeilinga (2).

Blue Bulls 18 — Try: Jono Ross. Conversion: Handre Pollard. Drop Goal: Handre Pollard Penalty: Handre Pollard. Western Province 29 — Try: Gio Aplon, Damian de Allende. Conversions: Kurt Coleman(2). Penalties: Kurt Coleman (2), Gary van Aswegen.

Played on Friday

Free State 26 Golden Lions 23.

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