Sharks sink to a new low


For instance, you would see the Sharks forwards industriously smashing up the middle towards the enemy line, appearing to be creating an attacking opportunity for the backs, and then a meaningless kick that saw the opposition score at the other end of the field soon after.

Or there would be a period of stout defence from the Sharks and then suddenly “open gates” in the midfield, with JP Pietersen mysteriously declining to defend at times, only to smash the opposition on other occasions.

And there were the inevitable high tackles, culminating in yet another yellow card, this time for flank Etienne Oosthuizen after referee Chris Pollock had had enough of the same infringement and had issued a warning.

And a Sharks game would not be the same without a dubious TMO decision.

What seemed to be a perfectly executed rolling maul try by Marcell Coetzee in the 61st minute was denied. It was at a key moment in the game and would have given the Sharks the lead going into the final quarter.

And injuries? There are always a host of them and worryingly for the Springboks’ coaching staff, Bismarck du Plessis did not look happy when he limped off after having banged knees with a Hurricanes forward. The Sharks have only just got used to seeing Du Plessis again after his return from suspension, so they probably won’t flinch if he is out for the rest of the campaign – the Sharks have just four games left.

The thing is Du Plessis was playing extremely well and bustled over from close quarters for the opening try of the game in typically robust fashion.

He also led a strong scrumming performance.

But that set piece solidity would then be countered by a bungled line-out. There were also concerning injuries to backs Odwa Ndungane, the scorer of the Sharks’ third try from an impressive backline movement that had finally seen Pietersen come to light, and which regained them the lead, and to Lwazi Mvovo. Both took heavy blows to the head.

Perhaps the word that best sums up this performance is “inconsistency”. There was plenty for supporters to get excited about, and the game was eminently winnable, only for individual clangers to undo good team work.

It was also about belief. The Hurricanes, having won 10 of 11 games going into the fixture were ingrained with the precious commodity. The Sharks, four from 12 and having lost their last four, had none of it.

Sharks teams of recent vintage would have put this ’Canes team away. The hosts were without their influential halfback partnership of Beauden Barrett (injured) and TJ Perenara (rested), as well as lethal wing Julian Savea (rested), but came through the examination of their depth. But let’s be fair.

The Sharks have been without their own international class combination of Patrick Lambie and Cobus Reinach for some time.

With Lambie anyway, this was the type of game his calmness and leadership might have sealed it for the Sharks.

In Lambie’s place was Lionel Cronjé, who had been given his chance after Fred Zeilinga’s extended opportunity at No10, and the jury is out as to whether he fully embraced that chance. Cronjé had a more than decent game apart from the odd injudicious kick out of hand.

Next to him, Frans Steyn made a solid comeback from his five-match ban. He made a difference in coming in for André Esterhuizen at No12.

Most of the forwards had good games, especially Renaldo Bothma at No8. He is on loan from the Mpumalanga Pumas but one cannot see the Sharks’ chequebook letting him return to Nelspruit.

In summary, the Sharks would have won this game had they not been so short of confidence and had enjoyed solid direction from their halfbacks. The Hurricanes, in contrast, scored when they needed to.

They took five log points out of the game, the Sharks took none but deserved at least two. Super Rugby is unforgiving. The Sharks deserve praise for their efforts but the reality is that when you turn to the log, sympathy is worthless.

Wellington Hurricanes (14) 32

Tries: Jane, Smith, Goodes, Thrush

Conversions: Marshall 3

Penalties: Marshall 2

Sharks (10) 24

Tries: Sithole, Coetzee, Ndungane

Conversions: Steyn 3

Penalty: Steyn – The Sunday Independent

Original source: Sharks sink to a new low