Scrum issues, poor breakdown control cost Sharks

2011-08-29 00:00

THE Sharks were exposed at the breakdown — both by the Lions forwards and referee Jaco Peyper — in losing their Currie Cup match 28-19 at Elis Park on Saturday evening, but it was the scrum that was coach John Plumtree’s major source of frustration.

Plumtree, not for the first time this season, labelled the scrum “a mess” after the defeat in Johannesburg.

The Sharks were denied territory and possession by the Lions in the first half and trailed 19-9 at the break. The Lions forwards dominated the breakdown where the Sharks were heavily penalised and this allowed blossoming Lions flyhalf Elton Jantjies to punish them, both with his attacking play and his boot (four penalties).

Jantjies kicked two further second-half penalties (25-9) after 52 minutes before the Sharks finally found some continuity and possession. Flyhalf Frederic Michalak fashioned a try for Stefan Terblanche from a quick penalty and Meyer Bosman kicked a penalty from over 50 metres as the gap narrowed to 25-19.

But, to Plumtree’s irritation, the superior Sharks scrum was penalised with six minutes remaining and Jantjies took the Lions nine points clear with his eighth successive kick.

“Scrums in this competition at the moment are a shambles,” said Plumtree.”We had the Lions under pressure, but that scrum at the end ultimately cost us.

Plumtree went technical in his explanation of the penalty that followed a collapsed scrum.

“The tighthead had a short bind on the loosehead and that forced the scrum down. And, bang, that was that, points gone. I was disappointed with that decision,” Plumtree said.

The Sharks-Leopards game last week was spoilt by the endless resetting of scrums and the problem surfaced again at Ellis Park.

“The resets are ultimately not the ref’s fault. The players must understand that with up to 10 or 12 resets per game it is going to cost you 10 or 12 minutes and no one wants to see a game like that.”

The Sharks coach said that action needs to be taken by South African refereeing boss Andre Watson.

“There are some props in this competition that are clearly inadequate and are serial offenders,” Plumtree added. “Ultimately the referees are trying to look after them and it is really up to Andre Watson to sort out those offenders.”

The Sharks scrum was superior on the night but Plumtree said they were unable to take advantage.

“I don’t think it is a plus to have a dominant scrum because you never get rewarded.”

Lions coach John Mitchell, with good reason, had few complaints but said match officials need to be more consistent while conceding that his players were at times at fault.

“But I thought our performance was very good,” Mitchell said. “We owned a lot of the game. The commitment in the tackle and the spirit and just the way the players took care of each other was huge.”

He praised Jantjies — “he controlled the game nicely” — but conceded his forwards had struggled in the set phases.

“But the way they worked for each other in defence was huge,” the Lions coach said.

The Lions’ win, their sixth in seven outings, has taken them five points clear of the Sharks and Plumtree’s team have to beat the Blue Bulls at Loftus this weekend if they are to stay in touch.

Plumtree said that Jantjies was given too many chances with the boot.

“Penalties were a big factor,” Plumtree said, “and some were the result of the Lions’ pressure. But there were also some that were a bit silly and we’ve got to look at that because in the past we prided ourselves in our discipline and it is letting us down … at the moment.”

There was a strong Sharks’ presence in the 32 000 spectators at Ellis Park, but it was Jantjies’s night with his 23 points (seven penalties and the conversion of Lionel Mapoe’s first half try) and several strong breaks earning him the man-of-the-match award.

Bok flank Jean Deysel, on for Ryan Kankowski at half-time, had a powerful second half and the Sharks scrum was impressive.

But the Lions’ first-half superiority and the Sharks’ lack of discipline at the breakdown — punished by Peyper’s penalties and Jantjies’ boot — were ultimately the decisive factors.

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