Thomas du Toit scored a 73rd-minute try as the Sharks claimed a hard-fought 24-17 victory over the Stormers at Kings Park on Saturday night. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
The Sharks had trailed by four points after a dour opening half of a clash clearly affected by the humidity in Durban, but they produced a much-improved effort in the second stanza to claim a much-needed win.
While many pundits had expected the Sharks to come off second best at scrum time, they did well to largely achieve parity in this key facet of play, while their defence was committed and physical.
It was this superb defence that also saw the Durban-based side withstand a late onslaught from the Stormers as two lineout drives from 5m out were ultimately thwarted for the Sharks to hang on for victory.
This defensive foundation also effectively enabled the Sharks to claim a win that moves them to within one log point of the second-placed Bulls in the South African conference, while for the Stormers, it’s a result that sends their campaign into further trouble. As it is, the Cape-based side has yet to win a game away from home this season.
The opening quarter of proceedings almost entirely belonged to the home side, who showed a clear desire to play an up-tempo game as they readily opted for quick throw-ins at the lineout, but their finishing left a lot to be desired.
On three occasions, the Sharks let golden opportunities slip on attack early on as a result of poor decision-making and handling, while Rob du Preez and Curwin Bosch each missed a shot at goal.
The half-time stats showed that the Sharks had carried 282m to 246 and beat 14 defenders to six as the Stormers missed as many as 14 tackles. On that basis, it would have particularly pained them to head into half-time trailing 7-3 after Stormers wing Raymond Rhule finished off a counter-attack try against the run of play just before the break.
Quite simply, it was surely one of the most forgettable halves of rugby this season, with both teams looking devoid of ideas and desperately short of confidence following recent defeats, while their kicking out of hand was absolutely aimless.
The game was desperately calling out for some sort of spark, and it was provided early in the second half when Makazole Mapimpi snapped up a grubber kick and then delivered a no-look pass to a flying Lukhanyo Am, who collected the ball one-handed before diving over under the posts.
The Sharks’ lead didn’t last long, though, with an error from the hosts again presenting the Stormers with an opportunity to counter-attack, which ultimately led to a try in the corner for Ramone Samuels.
However, a key moment came on the hour mark when Stormers scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenge was sent to the sin bin for a cynical knockdown and in his absence, the Sharks were able to draw the scores level when Rob and Jean-Luc du Preez combined for the latter to score.
Some superb handling among the forwards then allowed to Du Toit to go over for what proved to be the match-winning try, before the Sharks’ defence stood firm under immense pressure.
Sharks – Tries: Lukhanyo Am, Jean-Luc du Preez, Thomas du Toit. Conversions: Rob du Preez (3). Penalty: Du Preez
Stormers – Tries: Raymond Rhule, Ramone Samuels. Conversions: Damian Willemse (2). Penalty: Willemse
Sharks – 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Rob du Preez, 9 Cameron Wright, 8 Dan du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Philip van der Walt, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Ruan Botha (c), 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Juan Schoeman.
Subs: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 Ross Geldenhuys, 19 Tyler Paul, 20 Jacques Vermeulen, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Marius Louw, 23 Lwazi Mvovo.
Stormers – 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Craig Barry 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Damian De Allende, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Dewaldt Duvenge, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Chris van Zyl, 4 Jan de Klerk, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Ramone Samuels, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Kobus van Dyk, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Paul de Wet, 22 SP Marais, 23 JJ Engelbrecht.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images