Sharks hit top form

2015-03-16 00:00

THE Sharks managed to turn poor ­fortunes around this weekend and breathed new life into their Super Rugby campaign after beating the Cheetahs ­27-10 in Bloemfontein.

In a match of two-contrasting halves, the visitors got off to a fiery start and all but buried the Cheetahs in the first stanza — mainly thanks to two tries from man-of-the-match Marcell Coetzee.

The win makes it two from five games which is a slightly better state of affairs — alarm bells were ringing last week as the Durban outfit desperately needed to hit their straps after a lacklustre first four rounds.

The second half of the match left little to write home about but the way the Sharks performed in the first 40 minutes showed what the Springbok-laden side are capable of.

The Sharks set piece were under the microscope after the Stormers shunted them at scrum time a week ago. The return of Springbok props Jannie du Plessis and Beast Mtawarira made a huge difference on Saturday evening.

It was a slight gamble bringing both players in to the starting line-up considering Du Plessis was rested last weekend and Mtawarira was still on the mend from an ankle injury he picked up against the Cheetahs in their first round clash.

But both props provided the platform their side so desperately needed and the front-foot ball allowed Pat Lambie to control the game effectively with his boot, which piled pressure on to the hosts.

The scrums were evenly matched though, with Springbok tighthead Coenie Oosthuizen and Danie Minnie playing solidly once again. The former was the standout player for the Free State side, proving a handful for the Sharks defence when he carried the ball while making some devastating tackles of his own.

Praise must also be given to Bok lock Pieter-Steph du Toit. Before he left the field in the first half with a very worrying knee-injury, Du Toit was outstanding at the line-out while he carried the ball and worked hard on defence. His condition will be confirmed later this week.

Du Toit laid the foundation for both of Coetzee’s tries in the first half. The Sharks threw straight to Du Toit at the front of the lineout and mauled the ball over the line twice in the space of five minutes. The pack put in some hard graft in that area in training last week and it paid dividends as the Cheetahs just couldn’t sack the visitors’ drives.

You have to take your hats off to Coetzee and Renaldo Bothma, who played like men possessed. Both flanks led the tackle count in the match and their dogged work-rate proved the difference in the first half.

Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold will no doubt be impressed with Bothma, especially after losing Willem Alberts to injury once again last week. It took the burly blindsider a few weeks to find his confidence, but he optimised the Sharks win-at-all-costs attitude this weekend.

The Sharks backline also showed flashes of brilliance. There was plenty of aerial ping-pong going on but when the Sharks did attack, their backs were looking dangerous.

JP Pietersen and Frans Steyn are still developing as a combination but they have really brought calm and some much needed x-factor in the midfield.

Steyn was particularly busy and his try, which opened the scoring for the Sharks, showed just how powerful the Springbok veteran is.

The word intensity has been thrown around a lot in the Sharks camp this season and they seem to have got it right this weekend.

A lack of it cost them a few weeks ago and they need to be consistent in the weeks to come.

Captain Bismarck du Plessis was pleased with the outcome of the match and also highlighted his side’s die-hard attitude as a contributing factor to the win. “This win was due — we weren’t happy with last week’s performance. But I’m pretty happy tonight. It’s never easy coming here and historically the Sharks never play well in Bloemfontein so we’re really happy with the five points,” Du Plessis said after the match.

Those words couldn’t be more important this week ahead of a huge clash against the Chiefs in Durban.

The New Zealand side put the Stormers to the sword on Saturday at ­Newlands and are starting to gain some steady momentum.

The Sharks need to mix intensity with clever play if they are to beat the visitors this Saturday.

Round five Super Rugby results

Cheetahs 10 - 27 Sharks

Stormers 19 - 28 Chiefs

Reds 0 - 29 Brumbies

Highlanders 26 - 19 Waratahs

Crusaders 34 - 6 Lions

Force 17 - 21 Rebels

Hurricanes 30 - 23 Blues

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