The Sharks suffered their first defeat of the Currie Cup season, going down 32-22 to the Pumas in Nelspruit on Friday. BRENTON CHELIN reports.
It had been coming. After a lacklustre start to the season, the Sharks finally got their comeuppance, beaten by a team that showed they are not simply here to make up the numbers. The Pumas were full value for their victory, outplaying their more illustrious opponents in almost every facet of the game.
They were supreme at the set piece, dynamic on attack and more than held their own against the Sharks' highly rated scrum. All that amounted to a comprehensive bonus-point victory, courtesy of four well-worked tries.
The Sharks offered very little on attack in a dire first half, with Fred Zeilinga keeping them in the match thanks to his accuracy off the tee. The Pumas back division on the other hand looked dangerous every time they got ball in hand. Stefan Watermeyer and JW Jonker provided some great touches, with the former playing a key role in Justin van Staden's try just before half-time.
The Sharks rallied back from the 18-9 half-time deficit, taking the lead thanks to another Zeilinga penalty and a SP Marais try. At that stage the Pumas looked like they may have squandered a golden opportunity to pick up their first victory over the KwaZulu-Natal side in a decade, but they were not to be denied.
Watermeyer got his try, bursting through the Sharks' porous defence to dot down under the posts before the aptly named Giant Mtyanda, lurking on the wing, went over in the corner to send the Nelspruit faithful into delirium.
The Sharks will need to revisit their game plan following this defeat, with their current pack of forwards unable to implement the physical approach that worked so well for them during the Super Rugby season.
The victory lifts the Pumas into second place on the log and keeps them well within the race for a play-off spot.
Pumas – Tries: Renaldo Bothma, Justin van Staden, Stefan Watermeyer, Giant Mtyanda. Conversions: Justin van Staden (3), JC Roos. Penalties: Van Staden (2)
Sharks – Try: SP Marais. Conversion: Fred Zeilinga. Penalties: Zeilinga (5).
Pumas – 15 JW Bell, 14 Jerome Pretorius, 13 JW Jonker, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 Rosko Speckman, 10 Justin van Staden, 9 Dylon Frylick, 8 Renaldo Bothma, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Corné Steenkamp (c), 5 Giant Mtyanda, 4 Frikkie Spies, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Francois du Toit, 1 Corné Fourie.
Subs: 16 Frankie Herne, 17 DeJay Terblanché, 18 Marius Coetzer, 19 Jaco Bouwer, 20 Reynier van Rooyen, 21 JC Roos, 22 Coenie van Wyk.
Sharks – 15 SP Marais, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 S’bura Sithole, 12 Paul Jordaan, 11 Tonderai Chavhanga, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Conrad Hoffmann, 8 Tera Mtembu (c), 7 Francois Kleinhans, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 JC Astle, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Subs: 16 Franco Marais,17 Lourens Adriaanse, 18 Stephan Lewies, 19 Johan Meyer, 20 Cameron Wright, 21 Heimar Williams, 22 Lionel Cronje.
Photo: Dirk Kotze/Gallo Images