Sharks finish on winning note

The Sharks scored five tries in their 34-12 win over a second-string Stormers side in Durban on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI reports.

The Sharks were always expected to overpower and outclass a Stormers side devoid of so many first-choice players. The win at Kings Park marks their seventh in a largely disappointing campaign, and sees them finishing 11th on the overall Vodacom Super Rugby log.

The Sharks have battled for consistency all season, and so it came as no surprise when they turned in another patchy performance this past Saturday. In the first half, their handling was particularly poor, and their forward effort lacked intensity. They would also concede yet another yellow card for foul play when André Esterhuizen was sin-binned in the 10th minute for a dangerous tackle.

Kurt Coleman kicked three penalties in the first half, as the Stormers trailed 13-9 at the break. In the second half, however, the Sharks played a more physical game. They also employed the boot to better effect, kicking in behind the Stormers defence to create try-scoring chances.

The game marked the last for Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis, as well as Willem Alberts, in Sharks colours. Of the three, it was the Springbok hooker who made the biggest impact. Du Plessis was typically abrasive at the breakdown, and would show his full range of skills in the buildup to the Sharks' third try.

Du Plessis produced a clever tactical grubber behind the Stormers defence, which was subsequently reclaimed by Sharks No 8 Renaldo Bothma. The movement continued, and Du Plessis was on hand to collect the final pass. The big man still had a bit to do when he was confronted by the cover defender, Nizaam Carr. Du Plessis managed to slip out of the tackle, and then dot down for his final try for the Sharks.

The Stormers lost their way in the final quarter. Debutant Robert du Preez was yellow-carded for a dangerous tackle in the 76th minute, and the Sharks added a fifth try while the Stormers fullback was off the field.

If the Stormers can take anything out this game, it's that Coleman has rediscovered his goal-kicking form. Coleman may well be called on to kick in the play-off next week if the Stormers' first-choice flyhalf, Demetri Catrakilis, goes down with an injury.

Sharks – Tries: Lionel Cronje, Stefan Ungerer, Bismarck du Plessis, Lwazi Mvovo, Odwa Ndungane. Conversions: Cronje (2), Fred Zeilinga. Penalty: Cronje.
Stormers – Penalties: Kurt Coleman (4).

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 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Marco Wentzel (c), 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 20 Khaya Majola, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Fred Zeilinga, 23 Heimar Williams.

Stormers – 15 Robert du Preez, 14 Johnny Kotze, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Jaco Taute, 11 Pat Howard, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Nizaam Carr (c), 7 Michael Rhodes, 6 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Michael Willemse, 1 Oli Kebble.
Subs: 16 Neil Rautenbach, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Jan de Klerk, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Seabelo Senatla, 23 Kobus van Wyk.

Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

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Jon Cardinelli