The Sharks recovered from a shaky start to claim a comfortable bonus-point 47-19 victory over Griquas in Durban on Saturday and secure their place in the Currie Cup playoffs. DYLAN JACK reports.
The win sees the Sharks go level on 33 points with the Lions, but remain in fourth place after Western Province managed a last-minute victory over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
That has set up a grand finale to the round-robin stage of South Africa’s domestic season as just two points separate the Sharks and Province, who will face each other at Newlands next Saturday, but both teams are definitely through to the semi-finals as the Cheetahs are officially out of contention.
The result will also be a massive confidence boost for the Sharks, who have looked decidedly ordinary in two successive losses to the Lions and Cheetahs. There were pleasing performances from young scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse and hooker Fez Mbatha, while fullback Aphelele Fassi also put in a solid showing in his first start in a couple of months.
However, it did not at all look like the Sharks would be able to come away with all five points at a stage in the first half. The home side looked shaky from the start and Griquas capitalised as wing Enver Brandt latched onto a loose pass from Curwin Bosch to give the visitors a surprise 7-0 lead in the opening minutes of the match.
To Griquas’ credit, they defended really well and put plenty of pressure of the Sharks at the breakdown, disrupting the home side’s momentum and forcing them into poor errors.
The Sharks managed a response when Mbatha, who shone on his first start for the senior team, scored his first try from a powerful driving maul. That seemed to allow the Sharks to settle as they then took the lead for the first time in the match when Werner Kok acrobatically lept and gathered Bosch’s cross-field kick before reaching over the tryline to score.
Tries from Yaw Penxe and captain Lukhanyo Am secured the bonus-point for the Sharks and put the home side 24-7 ahead at the break. When Sikhumbuzo Notshe and Dylan Richardson scored in the second half, the result was all but decided, but Griquas continued fighting and got a couple of tries through flank Gideon van der Merwe.
Sharks – Tries: Fez Mbatha, Werner Kok, Yaw Penxe, Lukhanyo Am, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Dylan Richardson, Aphelele Fassi. Conversions: Curwin Bosch (6).
Griquas – Tries: Enver Brandt, Gideon van der Merwe (2). Conversion: Tinus de Beer (2).
Sharks – 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Werner Kok, 13 Lukhanyo Am (c), 12 Jeremy Ward, 11 Yaw Penxe, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Henco Venter, 5 Ruben van Heerden, 4 JJ van Mescht, 3 Michael Kumbirai, 2 Fezokuhle Mbatha, 1 Ox Nche.
Subs: 16 Dan Jooste, 17 Khwezi Mona, 18 Hanru Jacobs, 19 Aston Fortuin, 20 Dylan Richardson, 21 Sanele Nohamba, 22 Cameron Wright, 23 Anthony Volmink.
Griquas – 15 James Verity-Amm, 14 Eduan Keyter, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Andre Swarts, 11 Enver Brandt, 10 Tinus de Beer, 9 Zak Burger (captain), 8 Johan Momsen, 7 Stefan Willemse, 6 Gideon van der Merwe, 5 Cameron Lindsay, 4 Ewan Coetzee, 3 John-Roy Jenkinson, 2 Alandre van Rooyen, 1 Andrew Beerwinkel.
Subs: 16 CJ Conradie, 17 Mox Mxoli, 18 Tijde Visser, 19 Adre Smith, 20 Siba Qoma, 21 Ashlon Davids, 22 Johnathan Francke, 23 Daniel Kasende.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images