Sharks take a chunk out of Jaguares

Sikhumbuzo Notshe scores for the Sharks (Gallo)
Sikhumbuzo Notshe scores for the Sharks (Gallo)

The Sharks backed up their handsome return of three wins from four matches from their Australasian tour with a well-deserved victory against the Jaguares in Durban yesterday.

In beating last year’s Super Rugby runners-up, the Durban side went to the top of the South African and overall conference standings, thanks to their fifth win in six games, with 20 points.

That said, they might feel they could have won with a bonus point had they not lost their focus and their grip on the game in the final stages.

Going into the game, the big question hanging over the Sharks was whether their pack of forwards would stand up to their international rugby playing-level counterparts in the set pieces and contain the Jaguares’ notorious driving maul.

As it turned out, not only did they do enough to hold their own at scrums and line-outs, they did a manful job of defending the visiting rolling maul, scored their own line-out drive try through hooker Kerron van Vuuren and, more importantly, imposed their own game against the Jaguares.

The hosts’ ball retention was mostly exemplary; their work at the breakdown – be it in attack or defence – proficient; their contesting under the high ball proved particularly profitable; while their defence read the visitors’ attacking intentions like a book.

Flanker James Venter provided to be a nuisance at ruck time; newly returned winger Sbu Nkosi, his head injury replacement, Madosh Tambwe, and fullback Aphelele Fassi did incredible work under the high ball; while captain Lukhanyo Am and his centre partner André Esterhuizen led the way in defence with their reads.

The opening try of the match, by lock Hyron Andrews, came courtesy of two good up-and-under takes by fullback Fassi and Nkosi, and a surprisingly deft tip pass by Esterhuizen to Andrews, who showed and put the afterburners to score.

In-form number eight Sikhumbuzo Notshe’s first try – to underline how well he has played for his new franchise – originated from Am forcing a holding penalty, which was quick-tapped by scrum half Louis Schreuder before putting the eighth man away.

An obligatory break from deep inside his half, accompanied by a chip and gather by Fassi, resulted in Esterhuizen’s try as the hosts proved dominant in a first half in which forwards Ox Nché, Ruben van Heerden and Tyler Paul were the other pack members putting in unseen work.

But, after pulling away to 33-12, the hosts – perhaps disjointed by the introduction of impact players and the complacency of such a healthy lead – started playing fast and loose to allow the visitors to finish the stronger team by scoring the last try of the game. – City Press correspondent

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