Rain can't stop Rory

2008-06-20 00:00

Rory Kockott landed a pressure, 45-metre penalty two minutes from the final whistle to lift the Sharks’ blushes and seal a 28-25 win over Western Province in the Currie Cup opener at King’s Park last night.

The Sharks stuttered through a dreadful first half, but they finished strongly to squeak to the win. It was a contest which could have gone either way and it was finally the boot of Kockott, as heavy rain fell, who turned the contest with four penalties in the final 13 minutes to turn a 25-16 defict into the three-point win.

Province, superb at the breakdown and committed and organised in defence, badly exposed the Sharks in the first half and they turned 19-11 ahead at the break. Johann Muller’s home team, the strong favourites, simply could not create any forward momentum in the first half and instead attempted, untidily, to shift the ball against the solid Province defence. The result was a string of turnovers and infringements, allowing Province flyhalf Willem de Waal to use his left boot to turn the Sharks, while also landing five penalties.

The Sharks improved markedly in the second half, adopting a more direct approach and attacking the gain-line, but they still frittered away possession and only edged in front in the closing moments.

The Sharks started well enough, with Kockott kicking two penalties to De Waal’s one before the opening try was scored after 15 minutes. A wheeled scrum allowed man-of-the-match Kockott a clear 30 metre dash to the line and the Sharks were in front 11-3. But Province then took charge against a Sharks team which lacked cohesion and direction. Steven Sykes, a talented lock who looked uncomfortable on the flank, spilled a ball in midfield and Province wing Wylie Human dashed 60 metres to score. The immaculate De Waal, who landed all seven of his kicks at goal for 20 points, converted and added two penalties either side of half time for Province to lead 22-11.

The Sharks finally found some of their rhythm 10 minutes into the second half, taking the ball through the phases, and releasing number eight Keegan Daniel for a try in the corner (22-16).

The Province defence continued to frustrate the Sharks and when De Waal, with his sixth penalty and from the touchline, took the visitors nine points ahead with 15 minutes remaining, a major shock was in prospect. To their credit, the Sharks lifted their game in the closing minutes to dominate possession and territory and allow Kockott to land his four penalties inside 11 minutes for the win.

The final penalty — the kick that decided the game — came after Province had raked Sharks prop Deon Carstens on the ground and was awarded, according to the new laws, by the television referee. It was as close as that.

Province captain Ross Skeate praised the defensive effort of his players and their work on the ground.

“But we let ourselves down with the many penalties we conceded at the end and that was disappointing.”

Muller, the Sharks captain, was critical of his side’s “below standard” performance in the first half.

“I’m pleased that we came back strongly and pressured Province at the end, but we now know how much hard work lies ahead.” Kockott was the Sharks’ obvious hero — and there were not many others in what was a generally untidy showing. New coach John Plumtree will be concerned at the amount of possession that was lost at the tackle and the lineout. What will encourage him is that his team played poorly and still won.

Scorers:

Sharks: Tries by Rory Kockott and Keegan Daniel. Six penalties by Kockott.

Western Province: try by Wylie Human and a conversion and six penalties by Willem de Waal.

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