Sharks top the log

2013-09-02 00:00

The Sharks went two points clear at the top of the Currie Cup log after running in four tries and beating the Blue Bulls 34-18 at King’s Park on Saturday evening.

The Sharks, with 14 log points, travel to Cape Town this weekend to play Western Province, who share second place (on 12 points) with Free State.

Free State romped to a 40-20 (half-time 22-6) win over 14-man Griquas in Bloemfontein on Saturday while WP surrendered a massive first-half lead to draw 31-31 with the Golden Lions at Ellis Park on Friday night.

The Bulls were more solid in the set pieces, but battled against the excellent Sharks back row of Jean Deysel, Keegan Daniel and Jacques Botes at the breakdown, and the score was level at 13-13 approaching the final quarter.

But the introduction of scrum-half Charl McLeod for Jaco Reinach added urgency around the fringes, and as the Sharks raised the tempo of the game, a rush of 21 points (with three tries) inside 15 minutes turned the tight contest on its head.

First, fullback SP Marais, who had scored the Sharks’ first-half try after charging down a kick, counter-attacked, the Daniel of old tip-toed down the touchline, somehow keeping the ball alive, and releasing centre Heimar Williams to cross after 55 minutes.

Five minutes later McLeod charged down a Bulls’ in-goal clearance and the scrumhalf battled his way over from the resultant five-metre scrum for the Sharks’ third try. Fred Zeilinga, who landed six out of his seven goalkicks, converted superbly from the touchline as he did minutes later when Williams intercepted and the ball was quickly moved to lock Marco Wentzel who scored the bonus point try in the corner (34-13).

There was late reward for the visitors when wing Akona Ndungane went over for his second try of the evening, but it was scant consolation for the Bulls who had worried the Sharks for long periods, but turned over far too much possession.

There was a delightful switch in traditional roles with the 19-year-old Bulls flyhalf Handré Pollard, in a impressive first half, prepared to attack the gainline while the Sharks’ Zeilinga often stayed back in the pocket and kicked his team into attacking positions.

McLeod, for his 30-minute cameo, was fittingly named man-of-the-match in his 50th Currie Cup game for the Sharks.

Boom Prinsloo scored twice as Free State Cheetahs deservedly beat Griquas in a lively game in Bloemfontein. The Free Staters had the better of territory and possession throughout but the game was tainted by the sending off of Griquas’ Australian lock Rory Arnold. He scored a try for Griquas on the hour mark, but then found himself red-carded by the TMO for biting.

WP coach Allister Coetzee was decidedly grumpy after his side drew at Ellis Park following a controversial penalty try for the Lions — along with a yellow card for his centre Damian de Allende — by TMO Willie Roux when his team were ahead 25-10.

“... There was a clear knock-on in the build-up to their first try,” Coetzee said.

Lions coach Johan Ackermann, who described the penalty try and yellow card as a “bonus I did not expect”, said his team were lucky to snatch a share of the spoils.

Saturday’s scorers

Sharks 34 (13) – Tries: Charl McLeod, Heimar Williams, Marco Wentzel, SP Marais. Conversions: Fred Zeilinga (4). Penalties: Fred Zeilinga (2). Blue Bulls 18 (10) – Tries: Akona Ndungane (2). Conversion: HandrÄ“ Pollard. Penalties: HandrÄ“ Pollard (2).

Free State Cheetahs 40 (22) – Tries: Boom Prinsloo (2), Elgar Watts, Kevin Luiters, Raymond Rhule. Conversions: Elgar Watts, Riaan Smit (2). Penalties: Elgar Watts (2), Riaan Smit. Griquas 20 (6) – Tries: Rocco Jansen, Rory Arnold. Conversions: Nico Scheepers (2). Penalties: Nico Scheepers (2).

Friday night: Lions 31 WP 31.

Saturday’s fixtures (home team first)

Griquas vs Lions, 3.00pm.

Bulls vs Free State, 5.05 pm.

WP vs Sharks, 7.10 pm.

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