Glitter of Sharks win removed by Injuries, accident

2009-03-29 00:00

THE Sharks are three points clear at the top of the Super 14 log but their 35-14 win over the Brumbies at a blustery King’s Park on Saturday evening may have come at a price.

The Sharks, with a clinical second half after a ragged first, scored five tries to two in their win to overtake the stumbling Bulls.

Some of the glitter of the win was removed by an Achilles’ tendon injury to JP Pietersen and several moments of late madness with Bismarck du Plessis yellow-carded for a dangerous tackle and Frans Steyn involved in an unseemly scrap with two Brumbies.

But, of course, that all paled into insignificance when news filtered through early yesterday of the devastating motor accident in Durban which left Brumbies utility forward Shawn Mackay critically injured.

Pietersen told assistant coach Grant Bashford yesterday that “the ankle is already feeling a lot better” but the injury will only be assessed today.

Sharks head coach John Plumtree said after the game that Du Plessis had been cited for a dangerous tackle which he thought was “reckless but not a spear tackle.”

He said he was “delighted” the second half showing after a “flat” first half.

“It is tough coming back from a four-match tour and having a short week to prepare. We will have a little bit more energy and excitement next Saturday (against the Hurricanes).

“Yes, we are in a good position on the log but you can’t take it for granted that just because we are at home we will keep winning.”

Plumtree said that the Sharks had “just about found the balance” between kicking and running, defending and attacking.

“At times in the first half we took the wrong attacking option but I was impressed with our guys at the breakdown and I think we dominated there, forced the turnovers, created the attacking opportunities and that, really, was the difference between the two teams.”

Plumtree singled out Bok centre Adrian Jacobs for praise.

“I think he was in a different league to all the other backs on the field. He was outstanding. He was physical, he created opportunities, his passing game was excellent and defensively he was strong. That was his best game of the season, by far.”

Plumtree said Steyn at flyhalf had improved in the second half “when he was more direct and physical” and his long kicking game was always a bonus.

He dismissed Steyn’s late dust-up with two Brumbies as part of the game.

“He went into the game with a broken nose and then I think someone put an elbow into his face.”

Steyn was the first person off the field at the final whistle, storming to the dressing-room and exchanging angry words with Brumbies backline replacement Alfi Mafi on his way.

Frustration must have also played a role in his outburst as just about everything he tried - and he did keep trying with drops at goal, grubbers and line-breaks - failed to hit the mark.

His fiery halfback partner Rory Kockott made a massive contribution to the win, converting all five tries in a testing wind, sparking the opening try by JP Pietersen, scoring one himself and buzzing about the field in attack and defence.

The Sharks loose forwards, along with Johann Muller and Beast Mtawarira, were also heavily involved across the field.

Brumbies coach Andy Friend, reacting to his team’s defeat, was refreshingly honest.

“We were beaten by the better side with a strong attack and an excellent defence.”

There was no looking for excuses, no mention of forward passes, the referee or any illegal tactics “they were better, simple as that.”

Friend said that Kockott’s try, the Sharks’ third, shortly after the break had been decisive.

“We knew the Sharks would be dangerous from turnovers and we still could not stop them either by denying them those chances or in covering their attacks.”

His captain, Wallaby flank George Smith, agreed.

“They capitalised on turnovers and we could not shut them down when they counter-attacked.”

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