The Sharks slumped to a 42-17 defeat by Munster in Limerick on Saturday, continuing the trend of South African franchises’ troublesome initiation into European competition.
The one-sided result at Thomond Park Stadium makes it 1-3 for South African teams in the first round of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship after the Bulls and Stormers had also tasted defeat earlier in the day, while the Lions were the only local side to chalk up a win in their campaign opener on Friday.
Simon Zebo, who moved back from Racing 92 in the summer, marked his Munster return with two tries.
He romped clear in the fifth minute, with further tries from Craig Casey and Gavin Coombes making it 20-3 at half-time.
Young number eight Coombes completed his brace in the 50th minute – sealing the bonus point – before Henry ‘Boeta’ Chamberlain lifted the Sharks with an intercepted effort.
Although Yaw Penxe also sliced through for a classy score, Munster added a late gloss with replacement Chris Cloete and Zebo both crossing to add to a Ben Healy penalty.
The Sharks had nothing to show for their early dominance of possession – Curwin Bosch missed a penalty – and Munster stung them with an unconverted try against the run of play.
Zebo snapped up a loose offload and embarked on a 50-metre run-in down the left touchline, with Werner Kok unable to reel him in.
Munster applied pressure in the 25th minute, the visitors leaking a series of penalties, only for Thomas du Toit to rip the ball away, allowing the South Africans to clear the danger.
However, the former Munster prop saw yellow soon after, having infringed at a ruck, and Joey Carbery mopped up the three points for an 8-0 scoreline.
Bosch cancelled out that kick, rewarding a purposeful run from captain Phepsi Buthelezi, but Munster duly pushed on and took advantage of du Toit’s absence as Casey used a dummy to score from a close-in scrum.
A late bout of pressure from the Munster pack had Coombes burrowing over for Carbery to convert.
The second half was a stop-start affair but Munster bagged their bonus point when Coombes struck from two metres out.
Carbery added his second conversion before his floated pass was picked off by Chamberlain for the South Africans’ opening try of the competition.
In response to a monster Healy penalty, Penxe’s pacy finish – from a terrific Jeremy Ward offload – showed the Sharks’ attacking spark.
Nonetheless, Munster slammed the door shut with Cloete driving low for the line in the 77th minute, followed by Zebo’s classy closer two minutes later.
Player of the match:
The smallest man on the pitch rose to the occasion once more as Munster scrumhalf Casey took the award.
The 22-year-old caught Marius Louw out for his score down the short side of a scrum and he marshalled a try-hungry Munster pack around the pitch.
Play of the match:
Munster saved the best for last as their sixth try of the night was a cracking team effort.
Quick hands across the line, including a peach of a pass from Mike Haley, released Dan Goggin who sent through an inch-perfect kick for Zebo to dot down in the left corner.