Great weekend for Sharks as they open up six-point gap in overall log

2014-04-21 00:00

ALTHOUGH the Sharks’ win over the Cheetahs was nothing to write home about, it was a great weekend for the men in black as they managed to open up a gap at the top of the Super Rugby table.

With the champions Chiefs going down to the Crusaders by one point, and the Brumbies not in action, Jake White’s men surged into a six-point lead at the top, and with the Bulls also losing, the gap at the top of the South African Conference is now a massive 12 points.

The Cheetahs, who had the best attacking record in the competition ahead of the game, abandoned their attacking game and adopted a conservative approach as they looked to cause an upset over the table-topping Sharks.

The first half was not a great advert for SA rugby as the teams went into the break with scores tied at 3-3 after a penalty apiece from Elgar Watts and Tim Swiel. There were a number of promising runs for the Sharks that came to nought either by the bounce of the ball, handling, or poor decision-making.

The young Swiel, starting in Super Rugby for the first time, was entrusted with the kicking, but after two missed penalties in the first half, it was the experienced Frans Steyn who took over in the second, and ensured the Cheetahs paid for their indiscretions.

With the Sharks leading 12-3 after two kicks from Steyn, they were handed what seemed like a lifeline when Heinrich Brüssow was shown the yellow card for slowing the ball down at the breakdown. But it was the men from Bloemfontein who scored the first try of the game.

Hennie Daniller charged down a kick from Steyn and with no one back for the Sharks, Ryno Benjamin was left with a simple finish as the Cheetahs closed the gap to just four points.

Meanwhile for the Sharks, the England-born, Cape Town-schooled Swiel was growing in confidence as the game went on, and he nearly scored, having cut through the Cheetahs’ defensive lines only to be stopped in the nick of time by a last-gasp tackle from Oupa Mohoje.

The Sharks kept the ball, drove on and Jean Deysel scored with 10 minutes to play. Steyn converted the kick, and the Sharks led 19-8. With time running out, the Cheetahs looked to do what they do best as they threw the ball around, looking for a try that would bring their score to within seven points, but the Sharks defence held on.

In the day’s other local derby, the Stormers eventually clicked as a strong first-half performance ran the Lions to ground in the shadow of Table Mountain at Newlands.

Despite being a man down after Deon Fourie was handed a yellow card for an off-the-ball incident, the men from Cape Town were just too good for their counterparts from Johannesburg as they quickly went into an 18-0 lead after tries by Damian de Allande and Nizaam Carr.

The entire second half saw a grand total of three points scored through the boot of Lions’ flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff, and the game finished as an 18-3 victory for Allister Coetzee’s Stormers.

The result pushed the Stormers off the bottom of the table into second from bottom, while the Cheetahs are now propping up the rest of the competition.

Earlier in the day, the Bulls went down 19-12 to the Waratahs in Sydney. The ’Tahs leapfrogged the Force into second place behind the Brumbies in the Australian Conference, and fourth in the overall log.

The returning Israel Folau scored the only try in the game as the men from Sydney claimed a first win in 10 years against the three-time champions.

The result means that South African teams’ record overseas this season reads played 11, lost 11.

SCORERS

Sharks: Try - Jean Deysel; Conversion - Frans Steyn;

Penalties - Tim Swiel, Frans Steyn (3)

Cheetahs: Try - Ryno Benjamin; Penalty - Elgar Watts

Results

Friday: Hurricanes 39 Blues 20

Rebels 22 Force 16

Saturday: Chiefs 17 Crusaders 18

Waratahs 19 Bulls 12

Sharks 19 Cheetahs 8

Stormers 18 Lions 3.

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