Battle gets tougher

2014-05-12 00:00

THE latest Super Rugby results over the weekend mean that the Sharks face a real uphill battle over the closing weeks of the season in order to finish top of the log.

Director of rugby Jake White’s return to Canberra did not produce the outcome he would have desired after the log-leaders were beaten 16-9 in a kicking slugfest in the south-eastern Australian city.

Despite picking up a losing bonus-point from the rain-soaked encounter, the Durbanites now head to New Zealand for the next leg of their tour with just a point lead over the Chiefs and two- point gap over the Brumbies.

The opposition for next week, the in-form seven-time champions, Crusaders, also mean they face the real possibility of being knocked off their perch come the conclusion of round 12.

On Saturday, they played well enough to deserve more, but the cautious approach from both sides meant there was little in terms of attack as the contest turned into more of a clash of the boot, while other large parts were a battle of the forwards.

Springbok back Frans Steyn also had a rare off day with the boot, missing three routine efforts on goal at fairly crucial stages in the first half.

The Brumbies had taken the lead inside the opening 120 minutes when Christian Lealiifano converted a penalty after the Sharks had hands in the ruck.

Thereafter it was a kick-fest as Jesse Mogg, Robbie Coleman and Nic White continuously exchanged cross-field ball with Lwazi Mvovo, Steyn and JP Pietersen.

Flyhalf Steyn then missed twice within the space of two minutes, before converting his third chance a minute later to level the scores after 15 minutes when Stephen Moore was caught off-side.

Another Lealiifano penalty had meant the Brumbies led 6-3 at the break, although the Wallaby centre missed one of his attempts and then twice struck the post either side of the interval.

And after more erring from Steyn — he failed to find touch with a kick-off and a penalty — the Brumbies got the only try of the game with 17 minutes to play as scrumhalf White shifted a quick pass into the part of Sam Carter, who darted through the hole from just inside the 22 metres area to score under the post.

With chances minimal, comeback hopes were also minimal as the Brumbies held on.

“It’s not what we wanted,” Sharks captain Bismarck du Plessis stated afterwards.

“We missed a few kicks to goal and it just wasn’t enough at the end.

“We’ll have to go back to the drawing board now and really work hard for next weekend.”

Du Plessis admitted also played down any significance White’s return to Canberra may have had on the result.

“The coach is coaching us now, but he did a great job at the Brumbies, so it was personal for him as well,” he said.

For the former Springbok coach, he was left impressed by the showing of their opposition, who he had coached for two years prior to his move to Durban.

White added: “As much as it hurts with the team that I’m with, let’s just take things into perspective. This is a good Brumbies team.”

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