Defence was immense

2014-05-24 00:00

ANOTHER immense defensive display was the key that enabled the Sharks to further strengthen their position at the top of the Super Rugby standings with a 29-23 victory over the Blues in Albany yesterday.

The competition leaders were also clinical with the few attacking opportunities that came their way, scoring tries in each half through captain Bismarck du Plessis and scrum-half Cobus Reinach, while 16 points were delivered via the boot of the assured Frans Steyn.

This despite playing 20 minutes of the game with only 14 players on the park after yellow cards for Jannie du Plessis and Steyn.

But they managed to hold on and in the process became the first South African side in the history of the competition to come back from New Zealand unbeaten, while also making it 10 victories in succession against the Blues.

“We wanted to win four out of four,” Bismarck said after they made it three out of four on tour. “But three out of four on a hard trip, we’re very happy with that.”

Following the highs of last week’s colossal showing against the Crusaders — when they won for the first time in Christchurch — Jake White’s men again laid down their credentials as serious title contenders.

To be honest, they never looked like they could lose, even when Tevita Li crossed for a controversial try with 12 minutes to play leaving the lead at six points.

The visitors started the match well as Steyn kicked them ahead, when after only five minutes, the hosts were off-side.

Simon Hickey responded when Stephan Lewies was penalised at the line-out for illegally impeding Peter Saili, one of 10 penalties conceded by the Sharks in the opening half hour.

The opening try arrived after 11 minutes when the Durbanites powered over after several phases in which Tendai Mtawarira was prominent in carrying the ball forward. S’bura Sithole made the telling break and slipped through a gap, before the recycled ball was carried over by Bismarck for his 15th Super Rugby try.

With 25 minutes on the clock, JP Pietersen should have scored a second try when he failed to gather a Keegan Daniel grubber kick with the line gaping.

Steyn landed a superb drop kick before the 30-minute mark, while Pietersen made amends for his earlier error when he made a superb defensive tackle on Saili to deny the Blues a try.

Steyn scored and had a rare miss with two penalties before the interval with the Sharks 16-6 ahead.

Straight after the restart the Sharks lost Jannie du Plessis to the sin bin following three penalties within the space of a minute as referee Nick Briant lost patience.

Flanker Luke Braid ensured the Kiwis capitalised fully when he went over under the post following a strong drive.

However, Steyn gave the Sharks some breathing space with another penalty, this one awarded as Charlie Faumuina failed to roll away.

After more great Bismarck defending, Reinach grabbed another important breakaway score when his captain and then Lewies both kicked forward, before the busy scrum-half outpaced cover defender Jerome Kaino to dot down his toe-poke.

Steyn was yellow carded not long after for slowing down the ball and the Blues secured a fortuitous try with 14 minutes to play as Ma’a Nonu’s pass to Li on the left appeared to be forward, although the television officials allowed the score to stand.

SP Marais and West exchanged penalties at the death and Sharks held off some late pressure to claim the win.

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