Sharks’ victory all about 'guts'

2013-05-18 00:00

THE relief was tangible as the Sharks scrambled to a 23-13 Super Rugby win over the Western Force in Perth yesterday to snap a five-game losing streak and end their overseas tour with their heads high.

The win enabled the Sharks to leapfrog the Stormers — beaten in Melbourne yesterday — into 10th spot on the log and third in the South African conference. It also kept their play-off hopes just flickering though their injury problems continued to mount when Springbok JP Pietersen (ankle) limped off in the closing quarter, while fellow-centre Meyer Bosman suffered a suspected broken nose.

The Sharks, as delighted captain Keegan Daniel pointed out after the game, were under immense pressure following the series of losses and allegations of a split in the team.

“This win was all about guts and effort,” he said. “We have been strong in the second-half of games and that’s what happened again tonight. We are very happy with the win and I’m proud of the guys.”

But, after another poor and fumbling first half, it seemed they were back on the familiar path to defeat before fullback Riaan Viljoen provided the attacking spark in the second half and Pat Lambie kicked the goals that really mattered for the 10-point win.

The game had started ominously for the Sharks as the Force dominated early possession and territory. Yet it was the Sharks who scored the opening try as a rare multi-phase raid into Force territory involved flank Willem Alberts on four occasions before Daniel plunged over after 23 minutes.

But minutes later the Force were finally rewarded when an uncharacteristic defensive mistake by Pietersen resulted in the 20-year-old Force centre Kyle Godwin skipping inside the cover to score.

Fullback Jayden Hayward and Lambie each kicked a penalty and a conversion and the Sharks were happy to be only three points down (10-7) at the break and after missing 16 first-half tackles in another sloppy half of rugby.

Force captain Matt Hodgson said later that his side had paid a heavy price for failing to “convert pressure into points in the first half”.

He said that the Force then lost patience in the second half.

“We didn’t stick to our game plan in the first 20 minutes of the second half and they made us pay.”

Lambie kicked a brace of penalties and Hayward one before Viljoen scored the decisive try of the game with his speed off the mark allowing him to beat three weak Force tackles for a try.

Lambie, who succeeded with five of his seven kicks at goal, converted (20-13) and then took the Sharks two scores clear with a penalty after 73 minutes.

The Force’s replacement scrumhalf Brett Sheehan was convinced he had scored after 78 minutes, but the television referee ruled there had been a knock-on and the Sharks held on for their win.

And, on this day and after the events of the week, it was all that really mattered.

Certainly problems remain. The Sharks’ attack was again stilted and too lateral with the backs, short of confidence, often kicking away possession. While the set piece was solid, the work at the breakdown also lacked cohesion and intensity.

But the Sharks at least had some heroes on the night. Viljoen’s ability to find space on the counterattack was crucial in the second-half improvement while Alberts, before suffering a bang to the head, had a strong first half.

Fellow flank Marcell Coetzee was another who was heavily involved and replacements, lock Pieter-Steph du Toit and prop Wiehahn Herbst, were prominent in the closing stages.

The Sharks next face the Bulls at King’s Park next Saturday night before a five-week break and they will have to improve dramatically to deny the conference leaders. But at least they can build on a win rather than having to explain away another disappointing loss … or deal with more wild rumours.


Western Force – Try: Kyle Godwin. Conversion: Jayden Hayward. Penalty: Hayward.

Sharks – Tries: Keegan Daniel, Riaan Viljoen. Conversions: Pat Lambie (2). Penalties: Lambie (3).

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