Untidy victory for Sharks

2009-09-26 00:00

THE Sharks took five log points but little else in scrambling to the most unconvincing of Currie Cup wins over the lowly Leopards at King’s Park last night.

The Sharks eventually stuttered home 34-20 and wrapped up the bonus point with four tries inside the first half-an-hour. Their win will keep them clear at the top of the log, but there was little for the crowd of less than 10 000 to cheer on a chilly evening as their talented but under-performing team led 27-10 at the break and then went missing for most of the second half.

The Sharks were expected to romp to a lopsided win but, over-ambitious and far too loose in their approach, they became progressively more untidy as the game progressed and, indeed, were outscored 10-7 by a willing and brave Leopards side in the second half.

Certainly coach John Plumtree will be concerned and the clear message sent to all the Currie Cup contenders is that the champions are vulnerable.

The Sharks achieved their objective of scoring four tries in the first half but then lost their focus, structure and accuracy, even in the set pieces, as they played the Leopards back into the game in the final quarter.

“We are very disappointed at the way we played,” Sharks captain Stefan Terblanche said after the match, “and it must have been frustrating for all those who watched the game.”

The Sharks, over-anxious in their search for a bonus point, made numerous errors in the first half, conceding five unanswered penalties in the first quarter as they attempted to play the ball wide too early and without securing field position. But they were helped by the Leopards’ many turnovers and their counter-attacking brought them their four tries within 30 minutes for the bonus point.

Wings Lwazi Mvovo and Luzuko Vulindlu rounded off impressive moves and then centre Andries Strauss, who had not previously scored this season, crossed twice in four minutes to settle the bonus point concerns. Industrious flank Jacques Botes scored a fifth before the break while Leopards number eight RW Kember intercepted a Juan Martin Hernandez pass for a try and scrumhalf Jean Tiedt kicked a penalty on half-time (27-10).

The Sharks had to wait for 20 minutes in the second half before they scored again after replacement centre Adi Jacobs broke in midfield and lock Albert van den Berg scored. But the Sharks were again punished for their loose passing when Leopards wing Jovan Bowles scored a second intercept try and Tiedt converted and added a penalty to narrow the gap to just 14 points with 15 minutes remaining.

The stunned Sharks did improve but both Ryan Kankowski and replacement scrumhalf Rory Kockott dropped the ball on the Leopards’ line in the closing minutes. It was the story of their night.

As man of the match Andries Strauss remarked, “We thought we had the job done when we had our bonus point at half-time and we took our foot off the gas.”

But the abiding memory of this match is that the Sharks, with all their returning Springboks, will have to quickly find some cohesion if they are to successfully defend their title. Who would have thought that it would take the struggling Leopards to make that point?

SCORERS

Sharks: Tries: Luzuko Vulindlu, Lwazi Mvovo, Andries Strauss (2), Jacques Botes, Albert van den Berg. Conversions: Juan Martin Hernandez (1), Ruan Pienaar (1)

Leopards: Tries: RW Kember, Jovan Bowles. Conversions: Clayton Durand (1), Jean Tiedt (1). Penalties: Jean Tiedt (1), Clayton Durand (1)

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