Running in the rain

2009-08-01 00:00

THE Sharks defied history, the rain and the Free State Cheetahs to gain the most satisfying of Currie Cup victories as they won 21-12 in Bloemfontein last night.

The Sharks, fielding an inexperienced line-up and without a Currie Cup win in Bloemfontein since 2003, produced copybook wet weather rugby to send the Free Staters crashing to their fourth successive defeat.

Rory Kockott was the Sharks’ kicking hero, booting 18 of the points with five penalties and a 45-metre drop, while replacement flyhalf Monty Dumond sealed the win with a massive 52 metre penalty in the closing minutes to deny the Free Staters a bonus point.

The Cheetahs had the edge in possession, but they were constantly smothered by strong, organised Sharks defence and their discipline suffered under pressure.

Sharks captain Stefan Terblanche was delighted with the win.

“It wasn’t pretty, but conditions were really tough. Our discipline (which had been poor against the Blue Bulls last week) was excellent and our loose forwards were outstanding at the breakdown. I feel old when I’m out there with all the youngsters, but I’m very proud of the way they played.”

Terblanche was one of the Sharks’ heores and scarcely put a foot wrong in the wet, but coach John Plumtree will also be pleased with the impact made by young wing Lwazi Mvovo, who seemed untroubled by the slippery ball, and hard-working lock Steven Sykes.

Loose forwards Jean Deysel, Jacques Botes and Keegan Daniel, who replaced Ryan Kankowski in the last quarter, stayed in the Free Staters’ faces throughout, while the Sharks backline hardly missed a tackle.

The first half, in dreadful conditions and in steady rain, was a kicking lottery with little rugby. Kockott and Free State flyhalf Jacques-Louis Potgieter matched each other kick for kick.

Potgieter opened the scoring after six minutes with a penalty and Kockott replied in the 19th minute (3-3). The Sharks scrumhalf missed a goalable penalty after 19 minutes, but when the ball was kicked back to him as Free State cleared, Kockott calmly landed a 45-metre drop. Potgieter responded with a drop of his own and then landed a massive penalty of over 50 metres to give the Cheetahs a 9-6 lead. But Kockott levelled matters on half-time with his second penalty ( 9-9).

Both teams suffered injury setbacks midway through the half. The Sharks lost Bok loosehead Deon Carstens (rib cartilage) and moments later Cheetahs captain Hendro Scholtz left the field to be replaced by Kabamba Floors.

The Shark’s injury appeared particularly damaging as Patric Cilliers moved from loosehead to the tighthead and the U21 prop Wiehahn Herbst joined an inexperienced front-row that struggled for the rest of the half.

The Sharks started the second half strongly as the revamped front-row settled impressively and Kockott kicked three penalties in seven minutes to give his side an 18-9 lead going into the final quarter. Potgieter narrowed the deficit (18-12) with a penalty with 16 minutes remaining before Dumond’s remarkable kick took the Sharks to safety.

Many Sharks sides, crowded with Springboks, have travelled to Bloemfontein in recent years and failed, and this was a stunning victory achieved by a young but superbly coached outfit missing 10 first-choice selections.

SCORERS:

Free State: three penalties and a drop by Potgieter.

Sharks: five penalties and a drop by Kockott. Penalty by Dumond.

Sharks U21 rounded off a superb night in Bloemfontein with a 21-12 win over Free State.

In other games yesterday, Griquas, the surprise packet of the Currie Cup, stayed top of the log with their fourth successive win as they upset the Golden Lions 23-19 at Ellis Park. WP beat the struggling Leopards 48-7 in Cape Town, while the Blue Bulls downed Boland 50-18.

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