Limp defence costs Sharks the game

2011-09-19 00:00

THE Sharks found some of their attacking flair, running in four tries and scoring 32 points in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

The problem was that the Currie Cup title holders also l€ eaked five tries, and 53 points, in going down to the enthusiastic Free Staters.

The 21-point defeat has almost certainly ended any hope that the Sharks had of overtaking the Lions at the top of the log and securing a potential home final.

Instead their goal is beating off the challenges of Western Province and the improving Free Staters in securing second spot and a home semi-final. They are level with WP in second place on the log with Free State two points behind with four rounds remaining.

The Sharks do have the advantage of three home games — against Griquas, WP and the Lions — and the away clash against the bottom-placed Leopards.

Province had a nightmare start at Loftus and trailed 17-0 after 17 minutes as the brawny Bulls pack took charge.

Province fought back strongly in the second half, but still lost 28-20 with neither side picking up a bonus point. This leaves the Bulls down in sixth place, six points out of the play-off positions and still under fierce pressure to reach the semi-finals.

The Pumas, who have threatened all season, finally found the finishing touches to upset Griquas 34-31 in Kimberley. This has probably ended Griquas’ chances of reaching the play-offs.

The Sharks were shell-shocked after their Bloem mauling on Saturday when their defence , uncharacteristically, went missing while the scrums were untidy and scrumhalf Conrad Hoffman, who saved two certain tries with brave tackles, was strangely indecisive behind the scrum.

The Sharks were badly beaten for possession and territory for most of the game, but were still in it after an hour — trailing 29-25 — when their replacement lock Jandre Marais ran on and then off after a minute for a high tackle. The Free Staters responded with a flurry of tries and the Sharks were dead in the water.

Forewarned was not forearmed and the Sharks were undone by Free State’s rookie flyhalf Johan Goosen ran up 29 points and had a full-house, scoring with a try, conversions, penalties and a drop.

A couple of his kicks, including the drop, were from inside his own half, while he only missed one attempt all afternoon. He also cut the Sharks defensive line at will. His only problem appears to be one of cramp and for the second week in a row he hobbled from the field after an hour.

Loose forward Ashley Johnson was another to impress and he spoilt an excellent afternoon with a silly no-look pass which cost his side a certain try.

The Sharks, finally, showed some verve on attack and Bok centre Marius Joubert appears to be on his way back to form, but all the positives were eclipsed by their soft defensive efforts and their poor tackling.

“We were disappointed with some of our defence, but the Cheetahs played some really good rugby,” coach John Plumtree said yesterday.

“Some of the offloading in contact hurt us defensively and there were some of our one-on-one tackles that weren’t made, which was really disappointing.”

Plumtree said his team’s lack of accuracy had placed them under pressure.

He added, “We managed to score four tries and played some really good rugby at times, but we couldn’t cope with their intensity.

“It was always going to be a tough fixture for us. We look forward to getting back home, getting some good home support. We need it.

“The pack is struggling a bit at the moment and they need to up their game. The scrums were a mess and there was hardly one in the first half which did not end in either a penalty of free kick. The modern scrum laws were made, it seems, so that the referee can also play and Marius Jonker — a late replacement for Mark Lawrence — had a field day.

Plumtree added, “We’ve had no problems over the last two weeks and now this. Perhaps it was non-compliance from both front-rows, but it is frustrating for everyone when you don’t get ball from the scrums.”

The Sharks coach said Joubert had taken a knock to the neck late in the game, but the injury does not appear serious.

---

Saturday’s scores and scorers (home team first:

Free State 53: Tries: Johan Goosen, Pieter Labuschagne (2), Ashley Johnson, Tewis de Bruyn. Conversions: Johan Goosen (3), Sias Ebersohn (2) Penalties: Johan Goosen (5) Drop Goals: Johan Goosen. Sharks 32: Tries: Stefan Terblanche, Lwazi Mvovo, Jacques Botes (2). Conversions: Frederic Michalak (2), Meyer Bosman. Penalties: Frederic Michalak (2)

Blue Bulls 28: Tries: CJ Stander, Zane Kirchner, Wynand Olivier. Conversions: Francois Brummer (2). Penalties: Brummer (3). WP 20: Tries: Danie Poolman, Michael Brache, Siya Kolisi. Conversion: Isma-eel Dollie. Penalty: Dollie.

Griquas 31: Tries: Rocco Jansen, Marnus Schoeman (2), Riaan Viljoen. Conversions: Earl Rose, Rudi Vogt (3). Penalties: Rose.Pumas 34: Tries: Ricardo Croy, Hendrik van der Nest, Marthinus van der Westhuizen, Carl Bezuidenhout. Conversions: Bezuidenhout. Penalties: Bezuidenhout, Croy (3).

Log P W D L PD BPts Pts

Lions 10 9 0 1 132 6 42

WP 10 6 1 3 97 6 32

Sharks 10 7 0 3 25 4 32

FS 10 5 1 4 144 8 30

Griquas 10 4 1 5 -42 7 25

Bulls 10 5 1 4 -21 2 24

Pumas 10 1 0 9 -127 6 10

Leopards 10 1 0 9 -208 1 5

This weekend’s fixtures

Friday:

Pumas v Leopards 3 pm

Sharks v Griquas 7.10 pm

Saturday:

Lions v Bulls 3 pm

WP v Cheetahs 5.05 pm

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