Rampant Sharks give Lions a lesson in attitude

2011-10-17 00:00

THE Sharks, playing with the intensity, confidence and half-a-dozen Springboks that have been missing all season, bullied and out-muscled the log-leading Golden Lions on their way to an excellent 53-9 Currie Cup weekend win at King’s Park.

The bonus-point victory secured their second place on the log and they now face the Free Staters in the early semi-final at King’s Park on Saturday (2.30 pm).

Western Province, boosted by their returning Rugby World Cup Springboks, cruised into the other semi-final — and knocked out the Blue Bulls — by beating the Pumas 43-18 at Newlands. They will travel to Ellis Park to face the Lions in Saturday’s second play-off (5 pm).

Free State started and ended poorly, but did all the damage in between in beating Griquas 49-39 in Bloemfontein to nose briefly ahead of the Sharks on the log. Griquas immediately went 10-0 up against Free State, and then scored three tries in the closing minutes, but the more clinical home team ran in 49 points in between for the win.

But John Plumtree’s Sharks, knowing they needed a bonus-point win and facing a weakened Lions outfit lacking in ambition, responded superbly, running in seven tries for their win and a home semi-final.

WP, with five Boks in the backline and Schalk Burger coming on as a replacement, enjoyed themselves against the Pumas to nail down fourth place. John Mitchell’s Lions, battered by the Sharks, now face the challenge of keeping Province’s half-dozen Springboks (De Villiers, Fourie, Aplon, Habana, De Jongh and Burger) quiet if they are to reach the final.

Plumtree’s plan came together perfectly at King’s Park and he paid warm to the returning World Cup Springboks and the “passion they showed after their massive disappointment in New Zealand”.

The Sharks’ job was half done at half-time when they were better in most areas, but only led 14-6 after tries by Freddie Michalak and Ryan Kankowski. But Plumtree threw on his Boks in the second half and the Sharks took total charge, crushing the Lions at the scrum, knocking them over behind the advantage line and running in five further tries.

Their RWC Boks all looked sharp and strong, and the powerful Willem Albert scored their third try as he carried a couple of Lions back over their line early in the second half. The Sharks had their fourth try for a bonus point when Kankowski attacked off the back of an advancing scrum for the bonus point after 17 minutes. JP Pietersen, from an interception, Jacques Botes and Stefan Terblanche added long-range tries in the last quarter.

Michalak, who controlled the game with hand and boot, landed all eight of his kicks. Plumtree will also be delighted with the continued good form of lock Ross Skeate and Michalak, the bright return of Kankowski, the excellent scrummaging, the improvement in scrumhalf Conrad Hoffman and the positive impact made by the returning Du Plessis brothers, Alberts and Pietersen.

He said that wing Lwazi Mvovo (hamstring strain) and Jean Deysel (groin) have picked up light injuries, but he now has cover in most areas.

“It was a tough week, trying to reintegrate the Boks and then it is always difficult going on to the field when you know you have to win with four tries.

“I met with the Springboks during the week and they all said they were keen to be involved. I was really impressed with their effort and their passion and they helped us dominate the gainline.”

Plumtree said the Sharks should not get carried away with the victory.

“The Lions were under no pressure to win and they obviously had a problem with motivation, but I’m delighted that afer all the changes we came together as a team.”

Mitchell highlighted the Lions’ lack of motivation.

“We were given a lesson in attitude,” he said tersely. “We were out-willed by the Sharks, but we did not have much to play for. We did rest some of our players and they will be fresher next Saturday when we will have plenty to play for.”

A Sharks win over Free State this Saturday and a Province success at Ellis Park will provide the King’s Park crowd with a repeat of last year’s Currie Cup final.

Saturday’s scorers and scorers (home team first)

Sharks 53 — Tries: Freddie Michalak, Ryan Kankowski (2), Willem Alberts, JP Pietersen, Jacques Botes, Stefan Terblanche. Conversions: Michalak (6). Penalties: Michalak (2). Golden Lions 9 - Penalties: Burton Francis (3).

WP 43 - Tries: Jean de Villiers, Deon Fourie, Juan de Jongh, Siya Kolisi, JJ Engelbrecht, Bryan Habana. Conversions: Demetri Catrakilis (3), Conrad Jantjes (2). Penalty: Catrakilis. Pumas 18 — Tries: Jaco Bouwer, RW Kember. Conversion: Carl Bezuidenhout. Penalties: Bezuidenhout (2)

Cheetahs 49 - Tries: Cameron Jacobs, Pieter Labuschagne (2), Adriaan Strauss, Philip Burger, Werner Griessel. Conversions: Nico Scheepers, Tewis de Bruyn (4). Penalties: Scheepers (2), De Bruyn. Griquas 39 - Tries: Riaan Viljoen, Leon Karemaker, Dusty Noble, Stef Roberts, Sarel Pretorius. Conversions: Rudi Vogt (4). Penalties: Vogt (2).

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