Sharks give Bulls a class in kicking

2011-09-05 00:00

THE Sharks went to the home of Naas Botha and Morné Steyn and gave the Blue Bulls a lesson in goal-kicking to fashion a surprisingly comfortable 39-27 Currie Cup win at Loftus on Saturday evening.

The Sharks were out of sight at 39-15 with eight minutes remaining, but the Bulls were spared some blushes with two tries in the closing five minutes for a bonus point.

The Sharks, first through the long-range boot of Meyer Bosman and then the unerring kicking of Frederic Michalak, punished the Bulls’ poor discipline, and together they landed nine out of 10 attempts at goal. The only fluffed attempt was an angled 50-metre effort by Bosman, but he had already done the early damage with three kicks from the halfway line as the Sharks led 16-0 after just 18 minutes.

The Bulls fought back to 16-15 after half-an-hour, but the Sharks, taking fewer scoring chances, both in scoring three tries and in kicking a string of second-half penalties, steadily drew away.

The Bulls, in contrast, only took their chances when it was too late, while flyhalf Louis Fouche succeeded with just two of six attempts at goal.

The Bulls had the territory and the possession, but only really made inroads in the closing minutes when the Sharks, who had defended bravely all evening and already had the game won, started falling off their tackles.

The Sharks made few sorties deep into Bulls territory, but their first try, by wing Sibusiso Sithole, did follow a slick move off an attacking set piece (and a hint of obstruction in midfield). The second try, scored by strong-running hooker Craig Burden, came after productive lock Ross Skeate had forced a turnover while wing Lwazi Mvovo dashed away for the third after centre Meyer Bosman had poached the ball at the tackle.

“A win at Loftus is always special,” coach John Plumtree said yesterday. “We played against a good side and we had to play with the right intensity for 80 minutes, with and without the ball.

“I’m disappointed with the two tries in the last five minutes, but we were also chasing the fourth try and a bonus point. But the boys were exhausted after what was a tough game physically.”

The Sharks had to make far more tackles on the night and Plumtree praised the defence, but added that the attack was still a problem.

“We’re working really hard on our attack and I’m hoping it will grow in the next few weeks.”

The Sharks coach said scrumhalf Charl McLeod, who left the field after half-an-hour, had an AC joint problem while prop Eugene van Staden picked up an elbow injury.

“I’m hoping neither is too serious.”

Plumtree was delighted with the form shown by replacement scrumhalf Conrad Hoffman.

“He played really well and that was encouraging. He’s been under a bit of pressure, but he was much more accurate and his kicking game was good.”

He was also satisfied with the showing of Bosman, who was man of the match — “he’s getting better all the time”.

Michalak, impressive on both attack and in making a string of tackles, was again prominent, and there was also strong defence from centres Bosman and Stefan Terblanche and fullback Louis Ludik. The Sharks’ young scrum stood up strongly, while Skeate had an excellent hour before a lively Alistair Hargreaves replaced him.

But for Bulls supporters weaned on the match-winning heroics of Botha and Steyn, it was a harrowing experience to watch their team being out-kicked by the Sharks.

• It was a weekend when home ground advantage counted for nothing as the Sharks, Western Province, Free State and the Lions picked up Currie Cup victories on the road.

WP beat Griquas 41-35 in Kimberley, Free State went on the rampage (64-17) against the Leopards in Potchefstroom and, on Friday night, the Lions retained their lead at the top of the log with a 34-20 victory over the Pumas in Nelspruit.

Weekend results (home team first):

Blue Bulls 27 Sharks 39; Griquas 35 WP 41; Leopards 17 Cheetahs 64; Pumas 20 Lions 34.

This weekend’s fixtures (home team first):

Friday – Lions vs Griquas (7.10 pm).

Saturday – Sharks vs Pumas 3 pm; WP vs Leopards 3 pm; Free State vs Blue Bulls 5.05 pm.

Currie Cup standings after eight games: Lions 32; WP 27; Sharks 26; Cheetahs 23; Griquas 23; Bulls 18; Pumas 5; Leopards 5.

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