Sharks win

2014-07-12 23:34

Faced with an impossibly high mountain to climb, the Sharks did the next best thing and slipped into knockout mode at Newlands tonight.

After the Crusaders had scored an emphatic 34-8 win, including earning the bonus point, over the Highlanders earlier in Christchurch, the Sharks knew exactly what they had to do – beat the Stormers by 35 points or more and score at least four tries.

They claimed they would have a go against a team known for solid defence, but whatever ambition there might have been evaporated when the Stormers, through Nazeem Carr, scored the opening try of the game to make the target even bigger.

Realising there would be no miracle in the moonlight, the Sharks started to revert to the kind of rugby they will have to play when they meet the Highlanders in their play-off match at King’s Park on Saturday.

Determined to reverse a run of two successive defeats, the Sharks applied the tight, constricting game which has become Jake White’s trademark and squeezed the life out of a Stormers team hoping to provide a big send-off to some stalwarts heading overseas; among them Schalk Burger, Gio Aplon and Deon Fourie.

The pressure told, tempers boiled over, there was some of the Bok-on-Bok violence that always seems to emerge in these South African derbies and Frans Steyn slotted the kicks to put the Sharks in the driving seat.

There was never any question of the Sharks getting to the points margin needed to finish second on the log, but there was also no doubt they were heading for victory and were able to deliver the coup de grâce with a pair of breakaway tries by Sibusiso Sithole and replacement Stefan Ungerer.

»Earlier at Ellis Park, the Lions closed off a satisfactory season in fine style by smashing the Cheetahs 60-25.

»Playing a fast, running game, the Lions, with few established stars in their line-up, gave notice that they will mount a strong challenge when the Currie Cup tournament kicks off next month.

»In Friday’s play, the Brumbies and the Chiefs beat the Force and the Blues respectively to set up the other play-off match in Canberra – a repeat of last year’s final.

The Waratahs and the Crusaders, by finishing first and second, were thus able to avoid an additional play-off match and earn a week’s rest ahead.

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