Sharks fail to score bonus point in sweaty win

2009-02-22 00:00

A FRANCOIS Steyn foot fault late in the game spoilt what would have been a perfect night for the Sharks when they beat the Lions 25-10 in their Super 14 game at the weekend.

The Sharks left on their four-match tour of the Antipodes late yesterday and they were probably still sweating after a hectic if untidy win on the steamiest of Durban nights.

The Sharks were able to dodge any injury on the eve of their tour. However, they were left ruing a missed point when they had the match on ice, but failed to score the fourth, bonus-point try in the final 15 minutes.

Steyn came closest with 12 minutes remaining, but his foot just clipped the touchline as he dived over at the corner flag.

John Plumtree said he was disappointed not to pick up full points, but the Sharks head coach briefly turned philosopher when he added: “You cannot always get everything you want in life.

“We should have had the five [points], and we had our chances, but you have to be happy with eight log points from our first two games.”

Plumtree preferred to concentrate on the positives and praised his charges for their efforts in the heat and humidity on a sweltering Durban night.

“These are not the conditions for rugby. It is an absolute joke playing in Durban at this time of the year. I’m really proud of the guys. You should see them in the dressing-room. They are absolutely drained and I don’t think people appreciate how tough it is out there. That was a really big performance against a big Lions side.”

The Lions started at a rush, but then seemed to run out of puff before half-time and their moments of control were spoilt by poor handling. The Sharks pack grew progressively stronger and there were several line-breaks as Steyn and Ruan Pienaar attacked the inside channel, but their only reward came with a try to Deon Carstens as the loosehead prop beat two defenders to squeeze in at the corner flag.

The numerous turnovers resulted in the game being played at a hectic pace and the error-count rose in the second half.

Loffie Eloff, the genial Lions coach, refused to blame the slippery ball, but said mistakes were made by his “over-hasty players at critical times”.

“Twice we lost the ball on attack in the second half and the next thing the Sharks are scoring behind our posts.

“You can’t do that in the Super 14, which is a relentless, punishing competition, and you can’t do that against a very good team like the Sharks.”

The first try in the second half went to wing JP Pietersen, who accelerated away from the cover after scrumhalf Rory Kockott, as he did against the Stormers a week earlier, sparked a move 10 metres from his own line and centre Adrian Jacobs made the early running.

Sharks number eight Ryan Kankowski ran 45 metres and stepped inside the cover to score the Sharks’ third try after Lions wing Henno Mentz coughed up the ball in a tackle near the halfway line.

With numerous stoppages in the heat and players commuting to and from the reserve bench, the contest lost its rhythm and stuttered to the final whistle with the Sharks in control but not scoring.

“Our forwards pretty much dominated,” said Plumtree. “Our scrum improved as we went on and we pressured their line-out but we were over-excited on attack.”

The counter-attacking of the Sharks was impressive and assistant coach Chris Boyd paid tribute to fullback Stefan Terblanche.

“I think of all the games I have seen in the Super 14 this season, the Sharks have the best counter-kicking game and much of that comes from accurate decision making at the back from Stefan Terblanche.”

A crowd of 35 000 watched the game, but Plumtree said he is pleased the Sharks will now be away from Durban for the next month.

“When we get back from tour it will be cooler and we will play better, more accurate rugby.”

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