The Sharks rebounded from a 20-11 deficit to beat a second-string Western Province side 28-20 at Newlands on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI reports.
On Saturday at Newlands, there was nothing to play for as far as log position was concerned. WP had already clinched top spot when they beat the Cheetahs in round nine. It was for this reason that coach Allister Coetzee made 11 changes for the final league clash against the Sharks.
The star-studded Sharks were always expected to beat a WP side comprised of second stringers and untried youngsters. The only surprise was that it took them so long to take control of the contest.
The visitors were tactically and physically poor in the first half. The loose nature of the contest during that period suited WP, who scored some breathtaking tries from broken play. Many of these opportunities arose when the Sharks kicked the ball away aimlessly.
Flyhalf Kurt Coleman scored 15 of WP’s 20 points in the first half. It was not enough, however, as the Sharks hit back before and after half-time through the boot of Lionel Cronjé.
WP flank Rynhardt Elstadt was yellow-carded in the 53rd minute for cynical play, and Cronjé would goal yet another penalty attempt to level the scores. The inexperience of the WP side began to tell in the latter stages, and the defence conceded a try to the Sharks' rolling maul in the 64th minute. This score propelled the visitors into the lead. .
A subsequent penalty by replacement flyhalf Fred Zeilinga took the Sharks eight points clear of WP. The visitors put 17 unanswered points on Province during the second period.
The win was always going to be more important for the Sharks than WP. They will take some momentum into next week’s semi-final against the Golden Lions at Ellis Park.
WP will be boosted by the return of their first-choice players next week, and will have the benefit of playing that knockout match at Newlands. Should they win that clash, they will also enjoy home advantage in the tournament decider.
Western Province – Tries: Pat Howard, Kurt Coleman. Conversions: Coleman (2). Penalties: Coleman (2).
Sharks – Tries: S’bura Sithole, Lourens Adriaanse. Penalties: Lionel Cronjé (5), Fred Zeilinga.
Western Province – 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 EW Viljoen, 13 Pat Howard, 12 Michael van der Spuy, 11 Devon Williams, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Rohan Kitshoff, 5 Gerbrandt Grobler, 4 Jurie van Vuuren, 3 Brok Harris (c), 2 Neil Rautenbach, 1 Oliver Kebble.
Subs: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Justin Ackerman, 18 Gavin Annandale, 19 Anton van Zyl, 20 Patrick O’Brien, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Chevandre van Schoor.
Sharks – 15 SP Marais, 14 Tonderai Chavhanga, 13 S’bura Sithole, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Lionel Cronjé, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Tera Mtembu (c), 7 Etienne Oosthuizen, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Marco Wentzel, 4 Stephan Lewies, 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Monde Hadebe, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Subs: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 JC Astle, 20 Khaya Majola, 21 Conrad Hoffmann, 22 Fred Zeilinga.
Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix