Gods smile on Sharks

2013-08-17 00:00

THE rugby gods — and television match official (TMO) Deon van Blommenstein — smiled on the Sharks who edged the Golden Lions 33-25 in a frantic, error-ridden Currie Cup outing at King’s Park last night.

The Sharks shared the try count 3-3, but the Lions twice had tries awarded by referee Ben Crouse in the second half only to have them overturned by TMO Van Blommenstein.

The tight call for offside on the second disallowed try — by replacement Chrysander Botha — cost the Lions two bonus points, one for finishing within seven points of the Sharks and the second for scoring four tries.

But the victory was a crucial one for the Sharks who played well in patches and improved on last week’s display against Griquas, particularly in the set pieces. Again, though, they failed to turn territory and possession into points and it finally needed an intercept try by debutant wing SP Marais in the 73rd minute to carry them to an eight-point lead and safety.

The most worrying aspect of the Sharks’ performance on the night was their limp tackling. They missed numerous one-on-one tackles. Their poor defensive alignment, particularly in the second half, also left yawning gaps for Lions flyhalf Elton Jantjies. It was only desperate scrambling — and the availability of video replays — which saved the Sharks on the night.

They had the better of the first half, both in possession and field position, but twice they were set on their heels as they conceded soft tries.

The first came after 10 minutes when Sharks flyhalf Butch James kicked deep into the Lions’ corner. The Sharks chase was poor and fullback Marnitz Boshoff, fielding on his line, passed inside to wing Anthony Volmink who ran 95 metres to score. The second also went to Volmink just eight minutes later as he intercepted a skip pass by centre Heimar Williams on the halfway line.

The Sharks, who had played most of the rugby, were 17-6 behind after the first quarter but, to their credit, they hit back almost immediately with tries by flank Brynard Stander — after fellow-flank Jean Deysel had driven strongly on three occasions — and the promising, committed Williams.

Fullback Odwa Ndungane was yellow-carded late in the half after a high tackle on Jantjies but, with James kicking both conversions and two penalties, the Sharks led 20-17 at the break.

The Lions improved markedly in the second half when their scrum was more solid and Jantjies kept running at the hesitant Sharks’ defence.

Flank Jaco Kriel scored an excellent try after a chip-and-chase for the Lions to edge ahead 22-20 soon after the break and the game then hung in the balance as James and Jantjies traded penalties. Finally, it was Sharks’ replacement flyhalf Fred Zeilinga who kicked a pressure penalty in the 71st minute (26-25) before Marais’s late interception settled the contest.

Sharks captain Jacques Botes admitted the game was in the balance until the intercept try.

“It was a nervous game but ultimately we’re happy with the win.”

Lions captain Derick Minnie said his players were disappointed at “getting back into the game, and then losing it.

“We had it and we let it go but the Sharks are a quality side.”

Deysel was an obvious man-of-the-match but Sharks lock Marco Wentzel was also pivotal to the win.

SCORERS

Sharks 33 – tries by Brynard Stander, Heimar Williams and SP Marais. Penalties by Butch James (3) and Fred Zeilinga. Conversions by James (2) and Zeilinga. Lions 25 – tries by Anthony Volmink (2) and Jaco Kriel. Penalties by Elton Janties (2) and conversions by Jantjies (2).

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