Sharks getting better

2015-05-21 06:00

GARETH JENKINSON

WHILE gutted to not have beaten the Hurricanes over the weekend, the Sharks will be looking to continue on their upward curve as they prepare to take on the Waratahs.

After a trip over the Tasman Sea to Sydney, the Durban outfit took stock of their walking wounded and will be glad no other players had to be sent home injured.

While Lwazi Mvovo and Renaldo Bothma could be in doubt this week having suffered concussions against the Hurricanes, the Sharks will be managing the rest of their players carefully this week.

Hooker Bismarck du Plessis also left the park after a big knock to the knee that looked serious at first. But rest and ice might do the trick and the Sharks will want to tap into his physicality again this weekend.

Without the captaincy armband, the Springbok hooker has been back to his bulldozing best these past two games. He was a handful at the breakdown against the Hurricanes, and also scored a try — making his tally two from two since his return against the Highalnders a week ago.

He also sparked S’bura Sithole’s try, kicking the ball down field then securing the turnover that saw the ball go wide to the flying wing.

Given that the injuries aren’t too serious, the Sharks should be able to field a similar starting XV this week, which would be wise considering the performance they produced.

Defensively, the Sharks were much improved even though the stats show they missed 28 tackles. Despite a soft try that saw All Black centre Conrad Smith over the line, the Sharks showed urgency in closing down space.

The most pleasing statistic is the turnover count. The Sharks claimed 11, while only conceding two. It was a massive improvement from the week before, where the Highlanders pilfered their ball and capitalised on the counter-attack.

The Sharks were clinical, albeit safe, on attack and made sure they looked after possession at the breakdown point.

Upfront, the forwards produced a strong display in both the scrums and the lineouts. The latter was used to good effect and the Sharks set up some strong driving mauls. Tip your hat to the Hurricanes’ defence in that area though. The Wellington pack worked hard to repel the Sharks’ efforts there, although the Sharks were unlucky to have a crucial try denied — after their maul was deemed to have changed lanes.

Nevertheless, the far more clinical performance has given the Sharks the blueprint of how they should play for the remainder of the tournament.

A strong, aggressive approach to phase play had the Hurricanes defending for prolonged periods of time in the first half. That in turn created space out wide, which the Sharks backs used to good effect.

Odwa Ndungane’s second half try was testament to that. Some solid straight running by Frans Steyn held up the Hurricanes midfield and his wide pass to JP Pietersen saw the Springbok streak up the right hand wing before popping the ball back to Ndungane who scored the third and final Sharks try.

It was something Sharks fans haven’t seen much of this year and pleased director of rugby Gary Gold. His only real concern was soft defensive lapses that the Hurricanes quickly pounced on.

“Obviously we’re massively disappointed with the result. I think after a very poor performance against the Highlanders, the guys worked extraordinarily hard during the course of the week and I was impressed by the commitment from the players and management in terms of getting the situation sorted.

“I think we saw a huge amount of commitment from the players,” Gold said

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