The Sharks overturned a 10-point half-time deficit to claim an impressive 31-24 win over the Lions at Kings Park on Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
When reflecting on this result, the Lions will wonder how on earth they managed to let it slip after controlling proceedings for the better part of the first hour.
Yet the Lions were regularly frustrated by the gallant defence of the Sharks, who were at their opportunistic best when it mattered most, with a 68th-minute intercept try to Lwazi Mvovo effectively proving to be the match-defining moment in an enthralling derby.
The Sharks suffered a considerable blow before kick-off when star wing S’bu Nkosi was ruled out of action with an injury, while fellow Springbok Jean-Luc du Preez hobbled from the field within the opening five minutes.
Nevertheless, the hosts did make the ideal start to proceedings when Dan du Preez dotted down in the third minute from the back of a lineout drive, although for the remainder of the half, the Lions enjoyed ascendancy in terms of territory and possession.
While the Lions’ finishing was not always at its clinical best, they still racked up three impressive tries through Ruan Combrinck, Cyle Brink and Kwagga Smith to take a handy 21-11 lead at the break.
On the balance of play in the opening stanza, few could argue with such a scoreline, with the Lions having made 260m to 94, 73 carries to 34, while enjoying 68% of possession.
The Lions continued to camp in opposition territory for most of the third quarter, but continued to be denied by the determined defence of a Sharks side that simply refused to throw in the towel.
After spending so much time on defence, the Durban-based team then struck from virtually their first meaningful attack in the second half, with André Esterhuizen barging over for a well-taken try, while Rob du Preez slotted a penalty soon after to suddenly draw the scores level.
The game lay in the balance at that point, but then came the decisive try to Mvovo to ensure the Sharks claimed a hard-fought victory that reignites their playoff hopes, while ending the Lions’ 21-match undefeated run in local derbies.
Sharks – Tries: Dan du Preez, André Esterhuizen, Lwazi Mvovo. Conversions: Rob du Preez (2). Penalties: Du Preez (4).
Lions – Tries: Ruan Combrinck, Cyle Brink, Kwagga Smith. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (3). Penalty: Jantjies.
Sharks – 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Lwazi Mvovo, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Cameron Wright, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Phillip van der Walt, 5 Ruan Botha (c), 4 Tyler Paul, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Ross Geldenhuys, 19 Hyron Andrews, 20 Jacques Vermeulen, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Marius Louw, 23 Kobus van Wyk.
Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronjé, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Marvin Orie, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Dylan Smith.
Subs: 16 Corne Fourie, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Hacjivah Dayimani, 21 Marnus Schoeman, 22 Nic Groom, 23 Courtnall Skosan.
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