Bare to the bones Sharks do just about enough

2008-07-27 00:00

IT was a reward for tenacity and courage rather that the quality of their rugby, but coach John Plumtree was happy and relieved with the Sharks’ patchy 16-11 win over the Lions in the Currie Cup match at King’s Park on Saturday evening.

There was little to separate the two teams in a scrappy, error-ridden contest when the heavy dew contributing to an evening of sloppy handling and inaccurate passing. But the heavier Lions certainly had enough territory, possession and opportunity to win this game.

Their scrum — with one of the better looseheads in the country in Heinke van der Merwe — was more solid and they were physical at the breakdowns. But their backs handled and passed poorly, with flyhalf Earl Rose also occasionally booting away attacking positions, and this all allowed the Sharks’ scrambling defence to contain them.

Cobus Grobbelaar agreed that the Lions had allowed the game to slip away. “We did not take out chances and the Sharks did,” he said.

Plumtree said it had been “a good game to win”.

“Watching the Sharks is just not a relaxing, feet-up-in-the box experience, but I was impressed by the character of the players in standing up to a massive Lions pack and tackling to the end.”

Plumtree said the four returning Springboks and burly flank Jean Deysel added structure and confidence to the Sharks. The lineout was vastly improved and, at times, possession was recycled impressively.

But, again, the backline lacked any attacking edge and tries are not being created by backs who often run, at times across the field, until they are tackled.

The two tries in the game — one to each side — were fashioned in broken play. The first went to the tall but quick Lions number eight Willem Alberts, who sprinted clear after the Sharks — well behind the advantage line — had lost possession 35 metres from their try-line; the Sharks’ try went to replacement number eight Keegan Daniel, who emerged from a confusion of players to run 20 metres for the winning score.

The Sharks were ahead 16-11 with six minutes remaining and it needed a strong defensive effort, helped by excellent tackles by replacements Charl McLeod and Riaan Swanepoel and a timely intercept by Craig Burden, to deny the Lions in the final minutes and secure the four points.

The Sharks, of course, are short of their best, as captain Johann Muller quickly acknowledged later. But, missing eight players, they did beat a shadow Super 14 team and that is encouraging.

Sharks centre Andries Strauss made several important tackles, saving a certain try on half-time by forcing a flying Alberts, after a 70 metre breakaway, into touch on the corner-flag.

Springbok number eight Ryan Kankowski left the field at half-time with a painful collar bone, but Plumtree said he did not think the injury was serious.

Ahead lies Griquas in Kimberley and Plumtree is hoping that some of his Boks will still be with him. He needs all the help he can get.

And, incidentally, if you are confused by the laws governing the modern game of rugby, join the club. One set of laws in the Sydney clash and another at King’s Park.

Sometimes free kicks, sometimes penalties. Rugby, in this transitional phase, is both confused and confusing.

Scorers:

Sharks: Try: Keegan Daniel; conversions: Ruan Pienaar (1), penalties: Ruan Pienaar (3)

Lions: Try: Willem Alberts, penalties: Earl Rose (2)

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