The Sharks scored eight tries as they romped to a 53-0 win over the Kings in Durban on Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
Paul Jordaan scored a brace of tries in a standout performance, while Lambie contributed 23 points on the night, but this was an all-round effort that once again reaffirmed the Sharks’ impressive recent progression and their ever-strengthening playoff credentials.
The Sharks could not have asked for a better way to head into next weekend’s bye. The Durban-based side has endured a gruelling schedule over the past six weeks, which has seen them travel to New Zealand, back to Durban, over to Argentina and then back home.
However, a well-formulated preparation week that saw the Sharks lighten up their training load and then enforce several rotational changes enabled them to produce another energetic performance.
Obviously the result needs to be seen in context of the opposition, with the Kings failing to front up after a couple of encouraging improvements in recent weeks, and they were duly punished by a ruthless Sharks side that embraced the opportunity to showcase their abilities on attack and also completely dominated at scrum time.
Six tries were scored in an utterly one-sided first half as the Sharks powered into a 43-0 lead, and the hosts then went into cruise control during a far more pedestrian second stanza, which saw Lambie and Thomas du Toit score the only points of the half.
In windy conditions, there was plenty of kicking early on, but it would be a sequence of silky handling that created the first try for Lambie. In a movement that started within the Sharks’ own half, Willie le Roux, André Esterhuizen, Lwazi Mvovo and Jordaan all linked beautifully, while Lambie ran a superb support line to field the final pass and open the scoring in the eighth minute.
Lambie then returned the favour when he turned provider for Jordaan to score just before the quarter-hour mark, with the flyhalf having broken out from his own tryline after the Kings lost the ball on attack.
The improvements the Sharks have made with ball in hand were again in evidence when Le Roux and Jordaan then combined for the former to go over unopposed, while the latter then completed an incredible individual opening salvo as he darted over for his second try moments later.
In the blink of an eye, the Sharks were 29-0 up, and the game as a contest was as good as over. Before the break, Esterhuizen and JP Pietersen also added their names to the try-scorers' list as the home side went into half-time with a mammoth 43-point advantage.
The Kings’ defence problems have been well documented this season. As illustrated by SARugbymag.co.za’s Opta-powered stats, they’ve had the worst tackle success rate in the competition (80.1%), and in the first half on Saturday they had to make just 27 tackles, but missed eight.
It was the ease with which the Sharks were able to compromise the Kings’ disorganised defence that would have frustrated the visitors the most, although it must be said that the Sharks’ handling and interplay were top drawer.
At half-time, the stats showed that the Sharks had made a whopping 444m to 117, while making six clean breaks to one. It was, quite simply, brutal one-way traffic.
The second half didn't contain the same sort of try-scoring pyrotechnics, but the Sharks had done the job in the opening stanza, and can now look forward to putting their feet up next weekend.
With the game well and truly wrapped up with half an hour still to play, coach Gary Gold was also able to ring the changes and afford the replacements some game time, while Lambie interestingly shifted to inside centre as Garth April came in at flyhalf.
In a dominant display, the only concern for the Sharks will be an injury suffered by talented No 8 Dan du Preez, who hobbled from the field early on.
Sharks – Tries: Pat Lambie (2), Paul Jordaan (2), Willie le Roux, André Esterhuizen, JP Pietersen, Thomas du Toit. Conversions: Lambie (5). Penalty: Lambie.
Sharks – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie (c), 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Subs: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Giant Mtyanda, 20 Tera Mtembu, 21 Stefan Ungerer, 22 Garth April, 23 Odwa Ndungane.
Kings – 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Lukhanyo Am, 13 JP du Plessis, 12 Shane Gates, 11 Luzuko Vulindlu, 10 Louis Fouché, 9 Ntando Kebe, 8 Aidon Davis, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Stefan Willemse, 5 Schalk Oelofse, 4 Steven Sykes (c), 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Martin Ferreira, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Subs: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Justin Ackerman, 18 Tom Botha, 19 JC Astle, 20 Jacques Engelbrecht, 21 Kevin Luiters, 22 Elgar Watts, 23 Leighton Eksteen.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images