Sharks salvage win to lead log

2012-09-03 00:00

THE Sharks fiddled, fumbled but finally flourished to squeak home 34-32 against the Free State Cheetahs at King’s Park on Saturday evening and they now have a useful three-point lead at the top of the Currie Cup standings.

It was a remarkable weekend of Currie Cup rugby, starting with the Griquas dumping the Currie Cup champions, the Golden Lions, 42-32 in their own backyard at Ellis Park on Friday night and ending with Western Province thumping the Blue Bulls 42-6 at Newlands, 24 hours later.

And, sandwiched in between, the Sharks recovered from a 21-6 half-time deficit to squeeze into a two-point lead in the 76th minute at King’s Park, scoring four tries for an unlikely bonus point win.

The Sharks made nearly all the running in this contest, but they also made most of the mistakes. They camped in Cheetahs’ territory in the first half, but handling mistakes, penalties and superb Free State defence denied them. Finally, they conceded two soft tries from turnovers — by scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius and the speedy wing Raymond Rhule — in four minutes before the break and trailed by 15 points at the break.

They continued to flirt with danger in the second half, often moving the ball from under their posts while, in all, they also turned down eight opportunities to kick at goal in their determination to score tries.

Flyhalf Riaan Viljoen crashed over for a try early in the second half, but when Free State wing Nico Scheepers chased a long kick and was rewarded with a kindly bounce for a try, the Sharks were down 29-13 after an hour and they needed three scores in the final quarter to win.

And that is precisely what they did, with wing Odwa Ndungane scoring twice — the first a fortunate one after a forward pass from Keegan Daniel — before Meyer Bosman rounded off sustained attack with the fourth try to level the scores with four minutes remaining.

Bosman, who goaled all six of his kicks in a tricky breeze and made the long pass for Ndungane’s second try, converted for the win and he was named man-of-the-match.

Cheetahs coach Naka Drotské admitted that his team had erred tactically in trying to defend their lead and had kicked away far too much possession in the second half. This certainly played into the Sharks’ hands and bravely — and at times foolishly — they attacked from all angles and distances and were rewarded with a win.

No one tried harder on the day than discarded Bok backrower Keegan Daniel, but abrasive scrumhalf Charl McLeod was not far behind him. The involvement and lineout throwing of fourth-choice hooker Monde Hadebe was also impressive and veteran Pieter Dixon, on the bench, will have been delighted at being part of a winning squad, without having to trade bruises so soon after his return to the big-time.

Not even the most optimistic Western Province supporters would have dared dream that their team would run in five tries without reply in beating the Blue Bulls by 36 points at Newlands.

The Bulls, fresh from their win over the Sharks at Loftus, were expected to bully the Province pack, but the home team were superior in every area and they finally tapped into the attacking potential of their backline.

Replacement WP scrumhalf Nick Groom, on for Dewald Duvenhage, nipped over after 19 minutes, but the exchanges were fairly even until captain Deon Fourie, at the back of a rolling maul, scored shortly before half-time for a 17-6 lead. The hosts took charge in the second half and they were never threatened as Marcel Brache, Damian de Allende and JP du Plessis scored tries.

The Sharks have a three-point lead over WP at the top of the Currie Cup log and they meet the Cape Town side at King’s Park in the second round.

But coach John Plumtree’s focus is now on Kimberley and Griquas in the final game of the first round. Griquas will be buoyant after downing the Lions at Ellis Park and will fancy their chances against the young Sharks in this mid-afternoon match in front of their home crowd on Saturday.

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