Heavy rain fails to halt steely Sharks

2008-03-17 00:00

The Sharks did not allow themselves to become frustrated by the heavy rain, a determined Lions side or their problems at the breakdowns, and a tremendous defensive display carried them to a 16-8 win at Ellis Park on Saturday evening.

The Sharks always looked more dangerous, even though they managed just a single try.

But it was a try right out of the top drawer, most of the team providing their services as the ball was moved from their own 22 to the Lions tryline, which prop BJ Botha crossed once the ball had been quickly recycled. Flyhalf Frans Steyn made the crucial surge up the left touchline to spark the splendid counter-attack.

“I was pleased with Frans at flyhalf. He was carefully watched, which created opportunities to play on the outside. I thought he managed it well,” Muir said.

Scrumhalf Rory Kockott gave another accomplished performance, also succeeding with four of his kicks at goal, one from inside his own half, while Ryan Kankowski produced a classic display of a marauding eighthman. His one cover tackle, which prevented speedy Lions centre Jaco Pretorius from scoring, helped earn him the man-of-the-match award.

Muir said his team are still not the finished article despite five straight wins in the world’s toughest rugby competition and the Lions made them work hard, especially in the tight phases.

“We did some things good and others bad. It’s disappointing that we are not playing properly for 80 minutes yet and we didn’t get the five points we wanted.”

But in terms of a plan for the Super 14 campaign, Muir said a great big tick has been put in the first box.

“We’ve achieved what we set out to do in the first phase. We had a specific plan for where we wanted to be going into our bye, the week before we go on tour.”

One aspect that does seem to be holding the Sharks back is their failure to dominate the tackled-ball situations and the Lions, led by the under-rated Cobus Grobbelaar, shackled their momentum as they continually forced turnovers.

The Sharks are handily placed in second place on the log, three points behind the Canterbury Crusaders because they have only managed to garner one bonus point from their five wins.

The Sharks take a break this weekend, followed by the visit of the resurgent Reds before the Natalians go off to the Antipodes.

“We will need to balance the squad out selection-wise against the Reds to ensure we have the legs when we visit the Hurricanes the following week,” Muir said.

See page 16 for round-up.

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