It was another night of ill-discipline in Durban as the Sharks edged the Rebels 25-21 in a dour match on Friday. BRENTON CHELIN reports.
What is it about the humid Durban air that makes rugby players lose their heads? For the third time this season the Durban faithful witnessed a red card after Rebels prop Laurie Weeks took the law into his own hands with a flurry of punches after Jannie du Plessis had provoked him with a slap to the back of the head.
Weeks' actions cannot be excused and despite his protestations he can have no complaint about referee Jaco van Heerden's decision to brandish the red card. From a Sharks perspective it was another moment of ill-discipline from a senior player resulting in a yellow card that might've cost them more had Weeks not retaliated the way he did.
The scuffle came in the 29th minute of the match, which up until that point had produced little in the way of quality. The late withdrawal of Ryan Kankowski and Willem Alberts forced a reshuffle in the Sharks' back row and the replacements struggled to impose themselves on the game.
The Sharks weren't helped by the basic errors that have become a trademark of their play this season, while the Rebels largely succeeded in nullifying their driving maul.
The Sharks led 10-7 at the break courtesy of a penalty from the boot of Lionel Cronjé and a try from S'bura Sithole. The Sharks wing was a shining light during the opening stanza, carrying the ball strongly and freeing his hands well in contact.
Restored to their full contingent at the start of the second half, the Sharks got to work on improving their position on the scoreboard.
They did so with two tries shortly after the restart. The first a typically opportunistic try from Lwazi Mvovo, while the second was a superb solo effort from Heimar Williams off the back of a strong rolling maul.
But as they have done on so many times this season, the Rebels kept themselves in the match as captain Scott Higginbotham crossed for his second try. Despite playing with a man advantage for the whole second half, the Sharks failed to close out the game efficiently.
Some more generous Sharks' defending allowed the Bruce Hegarty in for the Rebels' third try, setting up a tense final 10 minutes.
However, the Sharks managed to drag themselves across the line and make it back-to-back victories for just the second time this season, although there was very little in the performance to be optimistic about.
Sharks – Tries: S'bura Sithole, Lwazi Mvovo, Heimar Williams. Conversions: Lionel Cronjé (2). Penalties: Cronjé (2).
Rebels – Tries: Scott Higginbotham (2), Bryce Hegarty. Conversions: Mike Harris (2), Jack Debreczeni.
Sharks – 15 Lwazi Mvovo, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 S’bura Sithole, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Renaldo Bothma, 7 Etienne Oosthuizen, 6 Khaya Majola, 5 Marco Wentzel (c), 4 Mouritz Botha, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Matt Stevens, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 20 Jean Deysel, 21 Conrad Hoffmann, 22 Fred Zeilinga, 23 Heimar Williams.
Rebels – 15 Mike Harris, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Sefanaia Naivalu, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Tom English, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Colby Fainga’a, 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Pat Leafa, 1 Toby Smith.
Subs: 16 Tom Sexton, 17 Cruze Ah-Nau, 18 Paul Alo-Emile, 19 Cadeyrn Neville, 20 Scott Fuglistaller, 21 Nic Stirzaker, 22 Jordy Reid, 23 Bryce Hegarty.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images