Sharks overcome poor first half to hand Blue Bulls their third successive defeat

2009-09-14 00:00

IF you are a Springbok and Sharks supporter you will be smiling this morning after a weekend to savour.

It started early on Saturday morning with the Boks’ Tri-Nations triumph in Hamilton and ended with the Sharks downing the Blue Bulls 29-23 in their own back yard at Loftus. And, in between, the Sharks’ chief Currie Cup rivals, Western Province, were pipped by Free State 33-31 in Bloemfontein to provide John Plumtree’s champions with a two-point cushion at the top of the log.

The Sharks’ poor discipline, punished by referee Jonathan Kaplan, and a lack of momemtum saw them trail the stronger Bulls 12-6 at the break at Loftus, but whatever they took with their half-time drinks worked a treat and they were a different side in the second half.

A rush of 20 points in just 18 minutes took the Sharks 26-12 clear, and although the Bulls came back at them in the closing minutes, they held on bravely for a significant win. It was the Bulls’ third successive loss, their second to the Sharks this season, and they are now in fifth place on the log.

“Credit to the players for the way they turned the game around in the second half,” head coach John Plumtree said yesterday.

“We had our chances in the first half, but did not finish and then we got on the wrong side of the referee, which did not help. But in the second half we tidied up our game, won more possession and put pressure on the Bulls. It was a very satisfying win.”

Plumtree said centre Riaan Swanepoel (shoulder) and number eight Keegan Daniel (thumb) were the only injury concerns, but help is arriving this week in the form of nine Springboks. Certainly players like Adi Jacobs, Ryan Kankowski, Jannie du Plessis and Johann Muller, who have spent most of the Tri-Nations on the sidelines, will be in contention for Saturday’s game against the blossoming Free Staters at King’s Park.

Sharks flyhalf Juan Hernandez, named man of the match, mixed some sublime moments with a couple of ugly mistakes, but took all his scoring chances for 24 points. Plumtree said he was delighted with the way the Argentinian is settling in and his running at the defence brought a try and created several openings.

There were strong performances from the loose trio of Jean Deysel, Jacques Botes and Daniel, lock Steven Sykes and scrumhalf Charl McLeod, while Stefan Terblanche was again in commanding form at fullback.

In Bloemfontein, Free State fought back from a 26-14 half-time deficit to beat Western Province 33-31, the winning score coming in injury-time

Province, thriving on turnovers, scored four tries in the first half for their bonus point, but weak defence in the second half allowed the fired-up Free Staters to turn the game on its head.

Scores and scorers on Saturday

Blue Bulls: Try: Werner Kruger. Penalties: Burton Francis (4), Francois Brummer (2).

Sharks: Tries: Juan Martin Hernandez, Jacques Botes. Conversions: Hernandez (2). Penalties: Hernandez (4). Drop goal: Hernandez.

Free State: Tries: Johan Wessels, Meyer Bosman, Lionel Mapoe and penalty try. Conversions: Jacques-Louis Potgieter (2). Penalties: Potgieter (3).

WP: Tries: Frikkie Welsh (2), Tonderai Chavhanga, JJ Engelbrecht and Juan de Jongh. Conversions: Joe Pietersen (3).

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