2010-02-20 00:00

THE Sharks fluffed their lines and their chan­ces as they stuttered to their second home defeat in the Super 14, going down 25-20 to the Cheetahs at King’s Park last night.

The Sharks, again, had their chances to win the game but, again, they made far too many errors in handling and at the breakdown and, apart from one fleeting moment, they could not sustain any momentum on attack.

They leave tonight on their demanding five-match tour of the Antipodes, facing the worst draw of any team in the competition and with just two bonus points in their baggage, while the Cheetahs were left celebrating their first Super 14 win away from Bloemfontein.

Sharks coach John Plumtree said that the tour could be a blessing, allowing the players to work hard on their limitations as a group.

“When the pressure is on we tend to go into our shells. Our second-half discipline let us down again, but it was knife-edge stuff with missed kicks and missed opportunities on counter-attack.

“We have to be more ambitious and build pressure. Kicking the ball away is always 50/50.”

Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske said neither side played particularly well.

“Our second-half defence won the game for us, but the humidity and the slippery ball was a factor and made it difficult to attack with any intensity.”

The Sharks, after a sluggish first half when they trailed 10-9, had the second-half territory and possession to win with something to spare, but they were untidy and disjointed on attack and, after leading briefly, it was the Cheetahs who came away to win in the final quarter.

The Cheetahs, in contrast to the fumbling Sharks and as they have done so often in the past, took their fewer scoring chances.

The first half lacked spark with the subdued Sharks seldom threatening on attack, and the Cheetahs, against the run of play, scored the only try when fullback Riaan Viljoen ran 70 metres through porous defence to score after 24 minutes.

The Sharks disputed the try as fullback Stefan Terblanche, chasing his kick, was obstructed five metres in front of Viljoen, but it was little excuse for the poor defensive alignment of their chasers.

For the rest, it was a half of penalties with Rory Kockott kicking three — and missing two easy attempts — and Naas Olivier goaling one and the conversion for the Cheetahs to lead 10-9 at the break.

Referee Jonathan Kaplan, at the scrum and breakdown, was hard on the Cheetahs as the Sharks took the first half penalty count 9-4, but their attack lacked fluency and they kicked away far too much possession.

Kaplan, with an upset tummy, was replaced at half-time by Pro Legoeta, which came as some relief to the Cheetahs who started to win more penalties.

Sharks coach John Plumtree wanted his players to keep the ball in hand in the second half, which they did immediately, winning numerous phases until Ryan Kankowski was released wide on the right for a try in the corner and a 14-10 lead.

But it was just a rare moment of joy before the untidiness, the lack of finish and poor discipline of the first half returned.

Olivier and then Viljoen, with two kicks, booted three penalties in the next 15 minutes and the Cheetahs led 19-14 going into the final quarter. Kockott narrowed the deficit to two points after 67 minutes, but the Cheetahs sealed the game when Olivier landed a drop and penalty (25-17) in the final 10 minutes.

Kockott, who succeeded with only five of his 10 attempts, did kick a 50-metre penalty on the final hooter (25-20) to earn his side a bonus point, but the muted response of the 22 000 crowd to that limited achievement told the story of what was another dark night for the Sharks.

If we are to find a silver lining anywhere, it came from the superior Sharks scrumma­ging and the occasional openings made by Kankowksi and Adi Jacobs.

But the old intensity, cohesion and character is missing and the Sharks now face the challenge of finding the winning recipe on foreign fields.


Sharks: Try — Ryan Kankowski; Penalties — Rory Kockott (5).

Cheetahs: Try — Riaan Viljoen; Conversion — Naas Olivier; Penalties — Olivier (3), Viljoen (2); Drop goal — Olivier.

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