Sharks hold on for fourth win in a row

2010-04-19 00:00

THE Sharks’ nasty habit of either winning or losing Super 14 matches by the most narrow margins is getting to captain John Smit and coach John Plumtree, not to mention the many thousands of supporters who are dragged through a full range of emotions every weekend.

The Sharks gained a most satisfying win at Ellis Park on Saturday, pipping the Lions 32-28 in a bloody grudge match. But for the seventh time in nine outings the Sharks were involved in a game either won or lost by less than five points and they had to repel a concerted Lions’ attack in the closing moments to secure the five log points.

Certainly captain Smit, speaking after the match and bearing the signs of war, was not amused.

“We placed ourselves under pressure at the end of this game by not taking our chances and by missing tackles again. We left too many tries out there and we have to show more patience in attack. These derby games are menacing affairs and it was a fiery encounter. But we always knew it was going to be tough.”

Coach Plumtree said yesterday there had been moments of “very good rugby by the Sharks and I’m delighted we have won four games in a row after losing the first five.”

“What was worrying is that we let the Lions back into a game we were controlling and that was most disappointing. Again we missed tackles and we’ll have to get that right and be a lot better against the Blues in Durban this Saturday.”

Plumtree said he was pleased at the way the defence had stood up in the closing two minutes when the Lions were on the Sharks’ line.

“That was most encouraging but it shouldn’t have come down to that. We had some excellent line-breaks earlier in the half which would have taken us well clear but we could not finish off.”

While the blood flowed freely, and the out-patients at Ellis Park did a roaring trade as players came and went, Plumtree said there was no serious damage. JP Pietersen limped from the field in the second half but the coach said it was no more than a bad bruise to a thigh muscle.

The game, played at a frantic pace, proved fairly predictable. The Sharks went out to a 19-6 lead after half-an-hour as their powerful pack, and muscular backrow, picked holes in the Lions’ defence. The Lions, as they have done a number of times this season, fought back bravely and attacked impressively from broken play but, again, they left themselves too much to do in the final quarter.

The Sharks in patches and when halves Ruan Pienaar and Andy Goode were varying play behind the advancing pack, looked a potent unit but too often a lack of concentration and composure cost them possession, territory and points. Big loose forwards Willem Alberts and Jean Deysel had a field day clattering into the opposition on both attack and defence while the set pieces broke even. There was an encouraging showing from the abrasive Riaan Swanepoel in midfield but fellow-centre Stefan Terblanche, though heavily involved, occasionally took the wrong attacking option and wing JP Pietersen had problems retaining possession in the tackle.

But it was the ease with which the Lions, against the run of play, scored their three tries which will be of concern. The Auckland Blues, with all their attacking talents and options, will provide an even more searching test at King’s Park this Saturday.


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