The Sharks struck an excellent balance between defence and attack to claim a 42-20 win against the Highlanders and begin their Australasian tour on a high. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The Sharks ticked most of the boxes in the first match of their four-game tour to Australasia. They competed fiercely at the breakdown and troubled the Highlanders with their high-hanging defence. What gave the Sharks the edge, however, was their ability to kick and regain the ball in the air.
The game was in the balance for the first 30 minutes. Thereafter, the Sharks scored three converted tries to take a commanding 27-3 lead into half-time.
The Sharks’ contesting on the ground and in the air during this period was exceptional. The decision-making and handling was equally impressive, with Sikhumbuzo Notshe featuring prominently. The finishing was world-class.
James Venter timed his run to perfection to accept the pass and score the first try. Mapimpi took two chances toward the end of the half to ensure that the Sharks kept the scoreboard ticking over.
Curwin Bosch delivered an impressive showing with the boot. The Sharks showed their intent to play much of the contest deep in Highlanders territory. When they were awarded a penalty, Bosch made no mistake and finished the game with a seven-from-eight goal-kicking record.
The Sharks pressured the Highlanders at the lineout and won several of these set-pieces against the throw. They were less effective at the scrum, though, with Thomas du Toit in particular battling for the second week in succession.
The Highlanders hit back through Dillon Hunt and Jona Nareki in the second stanza. It was clear at this stage that the Sharks – who had travelled from Durban to Dunedin a few days earlier – were starting to tire.
The forwards on the Sharks bench lent the visitors fresh impetus in the dying stages. Aphelele Fassi swooped on a bouncing ball and raced into the end zone to clinch a big win for his side. The fullback claimed a second at the death when he fended off the last defender and dotted down in the left-hand corner.
The Sharks will take plenty of momentum into their next match. While they didn’t maintain their levels of physicality and accuracy for the full 80 minutes in Dunedin, they will know that they have what it takes to beat the Hurricanes next week.
Highlanders – Tries: Dillon Hunt, Jona Nareki, Michael Collins. Conversion: Mitch Hunt. Penalty: Mitch Hunt.
Sharks – Tries: James Venter, Makazole Mapimpi (2), Aphelele Fassi (2). Conversions: Curwin Bosch (4). Penalties: Bosch (3).
Highlanders – 15 Josh McKay, 14 Tima Fainga’anuku, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Josh Ioane, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Marino Mikaele Tu’u, 7 James Lentjes (c), 6 Dillon Hunt, 5 Josh Dickson, 4 Pari Pari Parkinson, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Ayden Johnstone.
Subs: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Josh Iosefa-Scott, 19 Jesse Parete, 20 Shannon Frizell, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Michael Collins, 23 Teariki Ben-Nicholas.
Sharks –15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Lukhanyo Am (c), 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 James Venter, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Ox Nche.
Subs: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Le Roux Roets, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Sanele Nohamba, 22 Boeta Chamberlain, 23 Jeremy Ward.
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Photo: Steve Haag Sports/Hollywoodbets