Is Sharks’ victory the start of a rally?

2012-05-14 00:00

THE Sharks have fiddled and faffed around for most of their Super Rugby campaign, but they finally flourished in downing the Western Force 53-11 at King’s Park on Saturday evening.

A week is a long time in Super Rugby as the seven-time champion Crusaders, the log-leading Chiefs and the basking Sharks will tell you after an eventful weekend of rugby.

The Crusaders were upset by the unfancied Rebels, the Chiefs lost to the Reds in Brisbane yesterday — and lost their top spot to the Bulls — and the Sharks suddenly discovered their bite in running in seven tries against the Force.

The Perth-based team were, in a word, dreadful. The Force’s skills and defensive coach Phil Blake was trotted out to explain to the media what had gone wrong and freely admitted his team had neither the skills nor the defence to match the Sharks.

“We are very disappointed,” he said. “We prepared well, but there was not one area of the game where we were up to Super rugby standard. We lacked discipline, our execution was poor on both attack and defence and we lacked composure and patience.”

He said he had been impressed by the Sharks’ performance.

“They seem to be finding their form at the business end of the competition. They are probably too far behind [the Bulls and Stormers] on the log to win the conference, but I expect them to make the play-offs [top six].”

The Force had only one try to show for the fair slice of possession and territory they won — and that was a going away gift from TMO Johann Meuwesen after the final hooter and after wing Sam Wara’s boot went into touch before he had dotted down.

“If that try had decided the game, I wouldn’t be smiling,” Sharks coach John Plumtree said later. “I don’t know where that decision came from.”

It was the Sharks’ resolute defence which was the most impressive feature of the game and they kept tackling for 80 minutes.

It certainly led to some loose passing and Sharks wing Lwazi Mvovo took full advantage for two breakaway tries from his own quarter.

Plumtree was also delighted with the strong showing in the lineouts and scrums.

“We did the basics well and it was a most efficient performance. We were patient in attack and defence and the guys played for each other.”

Plumtree said the return of such players as Beast Mtawarira (to full fitness) and Jannie du Plessis (to form) had lifted the pack and the quality of the bench kept everyone on their toes.

“Anton Bresler (lock) was very good and our loosies are all going well so we have depth which is crucial in this competition.”

Plumtree said that flyhalf Pat Lambie, who went down with a heavy blow to the head midway through the first half, was “fine.”

Lambie received prolonged treatment on the field and then promptly made the slashing break for centre Paul Jordaan to score the Sharks’s second try. He did not return for the second half and Plumtree said he had felt “dizzy” during the break.

Freddie Michalak took over as flyhalf for the second half and he hardly missed a beat while also making a string of tackles.

The Sharks now have five derby games against the other South African teams to finish the round robin season with the first against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

They trail the Bulls by 10 points and the Stormers by nine and it is highly unlikely that they can overtake both to head the conference table (to secure a semi-final berth). Still, they are becoming increasingly difficult to beat and both the Stormers and Bulls will be dreading their trip to Durban in the weeks ahead.

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