Frederic the Great

2011-07-23 00:00

THE Sharks, bruised mentally and physically, relied heavily on Frenchman Fredric Michalak for their battling 23-22 win over a willing Pumas outfit in the Currie Cup match in Nelsruit last night.

The Sharks were chasing the game for most of the evening and trailed 22-16 going into the closing five minutes. But a sustained attack ended with prop Dale Chadwick plunging over and Michalak, limping heavily, booted the Sharks into a one-point lead.

Both sides came close to scoring again in the chaotic final moments before referee Mark Larwence, waiting for the hooter, ended the Sharks’ torture minutes after the stadium clock had shown full-time.

The Sharks were given the bumpiest of rides by the Pumas. Their scrum, impressive against the Blue Bulls last Saturday, struggled on the night while crucial lineouts were lost. They were also given a torrid time by the Pumas at the breakdown and struggled to build any phases.

But it was Michalak’s night as the flyhalf skipped through for the Sharks’ first try and scored 18 points on the night.

The Pumas took the early lead when Tiaan Marx slotted a penalty in the sixth minute, but Michalak levelled the scores three minutes later and they continued to trade kicks for the first half-hour (9-9).

Michalak took the Sharks clear in the 32nd minute with a try and conversion, but Coenie van Wyk’s speed on the counter for a try — converted by Marx from the touchline — levelled the scores again (16-16). Sharks hooker Craig Burden was carded for repeated ruck infringements on half-time and Marx kicked the penalty for a 19-16 lead.

Marx stretched the lead to six points after the break but, with the final whistle looming, the Sharks, running a kickable penalty following a slicing Marius Joubert break, finally crashed through for the winning goal.

The Sharks, top of the log after the win, face the Free State Cheetahs in Durban next weekend and coach John Plumtree will be hoping that the injuries to Michalak and Joubert are not serious and that this great escape in Nelspruit will serve as a timely shake-up.

SCORERS

Pumas: Tries: Coenie van Wyk. Conversions: Tiaan Marx. Penalties: Marx (5).

Sharks: Tries: Frederic Michalak, Dale Chadwick. Conversions: Michalak (2). Penalties: Michalak (3).

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