South African-born Duhan van der Merwe, the big winger who came back to SA with the big reputation, scored a hat-trick as the British and Irish Lions beat the Sharks 54-7 at Ellis Park on Wednesday night.
Josh Adams, playing at fullback, also completed his hat-trick in the game to take his tally to seven tries in two tour games.
Fresh off their 56-14 win over the Johannesburg Lions, Warren Gatland’s charges put eight tries past the Sharks, four in the first half and the same number in the second.
Early nerves and sloppiness when they had a sniff of a scoring chance cost the Sharks, who could have gotten more from the game than the lone James Venter try.
It was the match that almost didn’t happen during a series on the brink of Covid collapse with each passing minute.
The Lions had to make eight changes to their match 23 after positive tests came in hours before kick-off, which necessitated a late change in start time by an hour.
By the time the match began, it seemed like the Sharks had too long to think about the game and were off to a jittery start.
On the other hand, the visitors were foaming at the mouth to unleash their backline beasts, which they did as early as the third minute when Adams scored the first try of the game and his fifth since landing in SA.
Former Hoërskool Outeniqua pupil turned Scotland sensation Van der Merwe cantered over for the second score five minutes later, as it looked like the Sharks were in for a long evening.
After going 14-0 down that early and falling prey in scrums and lineouts, Sean Everitt’s men fought back in the middle patches of the first half.
Loose-head prop Khwezi Mona swung the scrums around in the Sharks’ favour, loose-forward Thembelani Bholi gave them front-foot ball, and scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse became nuisance-in-chief.
Their period with momentum led to Werner Kok breaking through down the left wing for the Sharks best first-half chance to score, but his inside pass to a free Manie Libbok was inaccurate, and the fullback knocked it.
Soon after, Kok was sin-binned after chasing down Lions No 13 Elliot Daly ala Lwazi Mvovo on Brian O’Driscoll in 2009, but referee Jaco Peyper penalised him for slowing the ball down thereafter.
The Sharks lost momentum thereon, and Lions flyhalf Owen Farrell engineered a through ball for Van der Merwe to score his second try in the 27th minute, the Lions’ third.
Inside centre Bundee Aki scored the Lions’ fourth a minute before half-time, the Lions 26-0 up.
The next half then became about damage limitation and stepping outside the realm of ignominy for the Sharks.
But the Sharks wanted to go a step further and stage a comeback, which they threatened to do, if only for a moment.
After keeping the Lions out with some hearty jabs, the Sharks struck for the first time through No 6 Venter in the 51st minute after a delightful counterattack.
They put the Lions defence to the test for another sustained period, much like in the first half, but they let their comeback slip by conceding a sloppy try to Adams.
As is their quality, the Lions added their sixth try with less than a quarter remaining in the match through 20-year-old Louis Rees-Zammit, who exercised his pace and power past Thaakir Abrahams.
Van der Merwe completed his hat-trick six minutes before full-time to twist the knife into the South Africans before Adams added his third down the same left-hand corner.
Sharks - (0) 7
Try: James Venter
Conversion: Curwin Bosch
Lions - (26) 54
Tries: Josh Adams (3), Duhan van der Merwe (3), Bundee Aki, Louis Rees-Zammit
Conversions: Owen Farrell (3), Finn Russell (4)
15 Manie Libbok, 14 Werner Kok, 13 Jeremy Ward, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Thaakir Abrahams, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Phepsi Buthelezi (captain), 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 James Venter, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Khutha Mchunu, 2 Fez Mbatha, 1 Khwezi Mona
Substitutes: 16 Kerron van Vuuren, 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 JJ van der Mescht, 20 Reniel Hugo, 21 Dylan Richardson, 22 Grant Williams, 23 Anthony Volmink
British & Irish Lions
15 Josh Adams (Wales), 14 Louis Rees-Zammit (Wales), 13 Elliot Daly (England), 12 Bundee Aki (Ireland), 11 Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland), 10 Owen Farrell (England), 9 Ali Price (Scotland), 8 Sam Simmonds (England), 7 Tom Curry (England), 6 Josh Navidi (Wales), 5 Adam Beard (Wales), 4 Iain Henderson (captain, Ireland), 3 Zander Fagerson (Scotland), 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie (England), 1 Mako Vunipola (England)
Substitutes:16 Ken Owens (Wales), 17 Rory Sutherland (Scotland), 18 Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), 19 Maro Itoje (England), 20 Jack Conan (Ireland), 21 Finn Russell (Scotland), 22 Hamish Watson (Scotland), 23 Taulupe Faletau (Wales)