Sharks on top after narrow win

2012-09-29 00:00

THE Sharks overcame atrocious conditions and the harsh red-carding of their hooker Pie­ter Dixon to squeeze to a 13-12 Currie Cup win over the Blue Bulls at King’s Park last night.

The victory took the Sharks back to the top of the log and they will stay there if Western Province beat the Golden Lions at Newlands this afternoon.

The Sharks thoroughly deserved their win last night, if only because they scored two tries without reply, and defended superbly against a physical, committed Bulls outfit.

They also had to play the final 10 minutes of a tense contest with 14 men after Dixon was judged by television referee Johann Meuwesen to have deliberately booted Bulls flank Arno Botha in the face. It appeared a harsh decision, as Dixon lost his footing and his flying boot caught Botha as he fell, but the many slow motion replays persuaded the match officials that the action was deliberate.

The penalty that resulted reduced the deficit to one point (13-12), but the Sharks held on bravely for an excellent win.

The wet conditions forced Sharks coach John Plumtree to rejig his backline again before kick-off, with Riaan Viljoen returning to flyhalf in place of Meyer Bosman, who switched to centre, with Paul Jordaan moving to the wing and Louis Ludik to fullback.

The heavy rain, both before and during the match, reduced it to a game of aerial ping-pong as both teams battled for position.

The Bulls, with the big boot of Louis Fouché at flyhalf and controlling the forward exchanges in the first half, had the better of the territory battle. This allowed Fouché to land three kicks — two penalties and a drop — for their 9-5 half-time lead.

But the Sharks, who conceded a 5-0 penalty count in the first half, played with greater intensity in the second half and it was the Bulls who infringed under pressure.

But, more importantly, it was the Sharks who scored the tries that eventually separated these teams.

The first, after 20 minutes, came after Paul Jordaan ripped the ball from a maul and ran 35 metres to score. The second, four minutes into the second half, was a superb effort after scrumhalf Cobus Reinach burst away from a lineout, found Keegan Daniel and the Sharks captain somehow bounced his way through a couple of tackles to score in the corner (10-9).

The Sharks were ahead 13-9 when Meyer Bosman, who had missed both angled conversions, goaled a penalty minutes later and the home side held their lead until the final whistle.

Bulls captain Dewald Potgieter said his side had played the right game tactically, but “we failed to take our chances”.

“But all credit to the Sharks. They did really well to keep us out, particularly when they were down to 14 men.”

Daniel said the Sharks had benefited from playing Western Province in similar conditions a fortnight ago.

“I’m happy with the win against a very physical Bulls team. We had to play the game in the wrong area of the field, but we took our scoring chances and defended well.”

Reinach was named man-of-the-match, but certainly the non-stop Daniel and Louis Ludik deserved a mention in despatches after another evening of trench warfare.

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