Sharks have Bulls to beat

2011-06-13 00:00

WHILE the Sharks stuttered again, the Stormers almost stalled, but the tenacious Bulls kept marching on in the 15th and penultimate round of the Super Rugby slogathon at the weekend.

The Sharks’ half-an-hour of inspired rugby was enough to earn them a 30-30 draw against the lowly Lions at Ellis Park, but the two log points were not enough to cement a top six finish and they will have to beat the Bulls at Loftus on Saturday to reach the play-offs.

The Stormers, untidily served by labouring, fumbling scrumhalf Ricky Januarie and inexperienced flyhalf Curt Coleman, kept giving the ball back to the Bulls, who ground their way to a typically bruising 19-16 win.

It was the Bulls’ sixth successive victory in the competition and on the log they are level with the Sharks.

The bonus point won by the Stormers in the dying minutes — when lock Hennie Bekker scored — could prove crucial and they will finish second on the log, and host a semi-final, if they beat the Cheetahs in their final game in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

The Stormers, nervy and poor in the lineout, relied on their stern defence to keep them in the contest, while the champions, with Victor Matfield bossing the lineouts and scrumhalf Francous Hougaard scoring the crucial try after the ball sailed over the Stormers’ jumpers, played the percentages effectively.

It was only when scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenhage came on at flyhalf in the final quarter that the Stormers found some cohesion, but they need him at the base of the scrum, perhaps with Jean de Villiers at flyhalf, if Peter Grant remains sidelined for the play-offs.

There were narrow victories for the log-topping Reds over the willing and spirited Force (24-21) in Perth and the Crusaders over the Blues (23-16).

The Crusaders took over first place in the New Zealand conference, overtaking the Blues, and are in third place in the overall standings, and in line to host the first quarter-final against the team finishing sixth.

The Waratahs’ 33-7 win over the Highlanders kept them in seventh place and they host the Brumbies in Sydney this weekend.

They are likely to win, leaving the Bulls and Sharks to fight the remaining top six spot.

“We knew it wasn’t going to be very pretty,” Bulls captain Matfield said at Newlands. “We knew we had to grind it out. Luckily we won the game … it was very tough, but everything is now in our own hands,” he said.

The Sharks looked anything but play-off contenders in the first half of their game at Ellis Park.

Physicality and speed have been features of their play in recent seasons, but that went missing against the Lions, who dominated the first half in a lead of 20-9 at the break and stretched it to 30-9 shortly after the change-over.

The Sharks were without continuity, possession, territory and heart, and Lions’ flyhalf Butch James, who was cool and confident and kicked 15 points, punished them.

Two easy pushover tries for flank Cobus Grobbelaar sandwiched one by scrumhalf Jano Vermaak after prop Pat Cilliers turned provider and Jaco Taute ran through a yawning gap.

Sharks coach John Plumtree cleared his bench after just 10 minutes in the second half and powerful young flank Marcell Coetzee and hooker Bismarck du Plessis immediately made an impact.

Lambie, running hard at the defences, scored the Sharks’ first try after 13 minutes in the second half and seven minutes later James was carded for a high tackle on Keegan Daniel.

With Freddie Michalak on at flyhalf, Lambie at fullback and Adi Jacobs in the midfield, the Sharks kept threatening and resulted in JP Pietersen scoring after 67 minutes.

The scores were level after 77 minutes when wing Lwazi Mvovo, chasing a Lambie grubber as opposite number Michael Killian slipped, scored five metres in from touch.

The composed Lambie added his third conversion from the angle for the 30-30 draw.

James almost won the game for the Lions in the closing minute when he struck an attempted drop from in front solidly, but Bismarck du Plessis was able to deflect the kick.

The Sharks will have the big boys, Willem Alberts, Jean Deysel, Bismarck du Plessis and brother Jannie,back for the Bulls at Loftus on Saturday.

Saturday’s scores and scorers (home team first)

Lions 30 Sharks 30

Lions -Tries: Cobus Grobelaar (2), Jarno Vermaak; Conversion: Butch James(3) Penalties: Butch James(3). Sharks - Tries: Patrick Lambie, JP Pietersen, Lwazi Mvovo; Conversions: Patrick Lambie(3); Penalties: Patrick Lambie(3)

Crusaders 23 Blues 16

Crusaders - Try: Matt Todd, Zac Guildford (2); Conversion: Dan Carter; Penalties: Carter (2). Blues - Tries: Rene Ranger, Charlie Faumuina; Penalties: Luke McAlister (2).

Waratahs 33 Highlanders 7

Waratahs-Tries: Tom Carter (3), David Dennis, Josh Holmes. Conversions: Kurtley Beale (4). Highlanders-Try: Jason Rutledge. Conversion: Tony Brown.

Force 21 Reds 24

Force-Tries: Rory Sidey (2), David Pocock; Penalties: James O’Connor (2). Reds - Tries: Quade Cooper, Scott Higginbotham, Dom Shipperley; Conversions: Cooper (3); Penalty: Cooper

Stormers 16 Bulls 19

Stormers-Tries:Andries Bekker, Conversion:Dewaldt Duvenage; Penalties: Kurt Coleman, Dewaldt Duvenage. Bulls-Try: Francois Hougarrd; Conversion: Morne Steyn; Penalties: Morne Steyn(4)

Played Friday

Chiefs 18 Hurricanes 18

Brumbies 32 Rebels 17

Bye: Cheetahs

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