Flyhalf Garth April scored 21 points in the Sharks' 31-17 win against Toulouse on Thursday. JON CARDINELLI reports.
Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold should be more than satisfied with the quality of performance. The visitors, who were missing a number of first-choice players, were the more physical of the two teams. And despite the cold conditions, the Sharks showed good attacking intent over the course of the match.
Captain Marcell Coetzee had a strong game at the breakdown, especially on defence. Tighthead prop Lourens Adriaanse got the better of his opposite number, another South African in Gurthrö Steenkamp, at scrum time.
Overall, the Sharks appeared faster and stronger than their French counterparts. Toulouse, who it must be said had nothing to gain from this friendly fixture, looked tired and uninterested.
Playing behind a dominant pack, the Sharks backline prospered. Scrumhalf Michael Claassens and fullback Willie le Roux obliged with some wonderful attacking touches. While April made a few mistakes, he was responsible for some important contributions in front of goal and with ball in hand.
April kicked a penalty goal on the stroke of half-time to steer the Sharks to a 18-10 lead. The visitors then struck early in the second stanza when centre Johan Deysel scored a try against the run of play. With April's ensuing conversion, the Sharks extended their lead to 25-10 and strengthened their hold on the contest.
Toulouse came back strongly after that, with former All Blacks hooker Corey Flynn scoring a try. They would have scored again if not for the Sharks' determined defence.
April sealed the result with two further penalty goals in the dying minutes.
The success in Toulouse sees the Sharks returning from their tour of France with a record of two from two. Gold's side beat Toulon 29-21 last week.
Toulouse – Tries: Alexis Palisson, Corey Flynn. Conversions: David Mélé, Thomas Bouyxou. Penalty: Mélé.
Sharks – Tries: S'bura Sithole, Garth April, Johan Deysel. Conversions: April (2). Penalties: April (4).
Toulouse – 15 Thomas Ramos, 14 Timoci Matanavou, 13 Arthur Bonneval, 12 Jarrod Poï, 11 Alexis Palisson, 10 Luke McAlister, 9 David Mélé, 8 Gregory Lamboley, 7 Gillian Galan, 6 François Cros, 5 Edwin Maka, 4 Romain Millo-Chluski, 3 Gert Muller, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Gurthrö Steenkamp.
Subs: Kakovin, Tolofua, Marchand, Aldegheri, Tialata, Tekori, Manukula, Harinordoquy, Tuinukuafe, Tebaldini, Bouyxou, Tolofua, Bienvenu, Rauga, Kunatani, Billard.
Sharks – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Wandile Mjekevu , 13 Heimar Williams, 12 Johan Deysel, 11 S’bura Sithole, 10 Garth April, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Christiaan de Bruin, 7 Etienne Oosthuizen, 6 Marcell Coetzee (c), 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Dave McDuling, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Juan Schoeman.
Subs: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Gerhard Engelbrecht, 18 Daniel du Preez, 19 Jean-Luc du Preez, 20 Cobus Reinach, 21 Stefan Ungerer, 22 André Esterhuizen, 23 Paul Jordaan, 24 Odwa Ndungane, 25 Joe Pietersen.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images