Sharks heartened by squeak of a victory

2012-04-02 00:00

The Sharks’ Super Rugby campaign is back on track following their weekend 29-26 win over the Brumbies in Canberra and coach John Plumtree said yesterday that the win could not have come at a better time.

Following their disappointing loss to the Waratahs in Sydney a week earlier, the Sharks were in desperate need of a victory ahead of the New Zealand leg of the tour. They mixed moments of good rugby with bad, running in four tries and fluffing a couple of others, but their defences held on for the win.

The Sharks, seventh on the log, face the Hurricanes in New Plymouth on Friday and then the Blues at Eden Park in Auckland a week later before returning to South Africa for a series of home games.

The Sharks have curiously often struggled in Australia, with a healthier record in New Zealand.

“We’re not very good on this Australian part of the leg,” Plumtree conceded. “When you’re away for four weeks a win like this is just great for morale and makes everything just a bit better and easier.”

There were real positives for the Sharks. They bothered the Brumbies at the breakdown where number eight Keegan Daniel was superb in the fetching role — if not with his over-ambitious passing — flank Marcell Coetzee made tackle after tackle, Bismarck du Plessis was again bruising and busy, while lock Steven Sykes had a most productive outing.

But without the accurate passing of flyhalf Pat Lambie and inside centre Meyer Bosman, the backline lacked the cohesion and rhythm of previous weeks. Also worrying was the wayward tactical kicking that time and again presented the Brumbies with opportunities to counter-attack.

A relieved Daniel said that memories of the late loss to the Waratahs had come flooding back when the Sharks conceded a late try to the Brumbies and saw their lead cut from 10 points to three on the final hooter.

The Sharks then compounded their problems at the kick-off by booting the ball deep to the Brumbies and allowing them the opportunity to run the ball back at them in the final moments before a handling error after numerous phases ended the game.

“Both teams played great rugby, but I’m very proud of the boys after last week’s heartbreak. It was tough out there, but we haven’t had too much success here, so we’re very happy to pull off a win.”

Adding salt to the Brumbies’ wounds was the news about flyhalf Matt Toomua, who was returning from injury against the Sharks. He was carried off with a torn cruciate ligament early in the second half and has been ruled out for the rest of the season.

Brumbies coach Jake White later told reporters the flyhalf’s return had been premature.

“It’s funny, but in coaching you always have to make some risks and we say the biggest risk is not taking a risk,” he said. “He was ready to go but it wasn’t the right call to bring him back this week.

“One never knows. The reality is maybe we rushed him back, but we did the same with [lock] Leon Power and he’s just got better and better.”

The victory was the Sharks’ first in Canberra since 1998 and only the fifth by a South African team at the venue.

“The game was there to be won and when we were building the pressure we probably just let the release valve off now and then,” White said. “That’s just the nature of the team that we have.

“When we watch the video of it, I’m sure the players will go ‘Sheesh, if we just did that’.”

Plumtree said the Sharks, frequently penalised by South African referees before the tour, had shown excellent discipline in holding on for the win.

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