Sharks fire late to sink Sunwolves

Lwazi Mvovo scored a hat-trick as the Sharks claimed a 38-17 bonus-point victory against the Sunwolves in Singapore on Saturday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.

The Sunwolves felt the wrath of a Sharks side that last weekend became the first South African team to lose to the Kings. But in front of a highly partisan Singapore crowd, coach Robert du Preez’s men delivered an improved performance to return to winning ways.

Having said that, they didn’t have it all their own way and needed three late tries – from wingers Mvovo (two) and Sbu Nkosi – and some gutsy defence to see off the stern challenge from the Sunwolves.

The home team, playing at their alternative venue, helped to make this an entertaining clash. They ran the ball from all over the field, but couldn’t match the physicality of the Sharks’ forwards.

The Sunwolves made an energetic start to the match, securing the ball from the initial kick-off by flyhalf Yu Tamura. The Sharks turned possession over and sensibly cleared the ball away from the danger zone. The hosts then kicked into the open space behind the Sharks’ defence, and Garth April launched a counter-attack. The flyhalf broke out from deep, down the right flank, and after a couple of phases inside the 22, Mvovo had an easy run-in for the opening try.

Despite the loss of captain Shota Horie to injury, the Sunwolves hit back in the 15th minute with an outstanding team try that originated in their own half. They kept the ball alive with superb passing before Horie’s replacement Takeshi Hino evaded the tackle of Ruan Botha to crash over. Tamura made no mistake with the conversion, as the Sunwolves drew level. But that was as good as it would get for them.

While the Sharks’ attack was pretty, it was their forward momentum that proved to be effective. With a penalty going their way, captain Philip van der Walt directed April to kick to the touchline and from the driving maul, Botha burst through the middle to score.

With half-time approaching, the Sharks created another scoring opportunity, but the Sunwolves won a turnover penalty. They then senselessly took a quick tap instead of exiting the red zone and after one pass too many, the ball was knocked on and Sharks centre Lukhanyo Am pounced to free up Nkosi for another converted effort.

Most of the second half belonged to the Sunwolves as, with an improved defensive performance, they frustrated the Sharks.

The hosts claimed a 10-point haul via a try by flank Shuhei Matsuhashi, who ran onto scrumhalf Tanaka Fumiaki’s delayed pass, and a penalty from replacement flyhalf Jumpei Ogura.

The Sharks looked rattled, and spurned another scoring chance. With the ball hacked into open space, Jean-Luc du Preez outsprinted a winger, and popped the ball up to Etienne Oosthuizen, who knocked on with the tryline at his mercy.

It was only in the last five minutes that the Sharks were able to pull away on the scoreboard and secure the victory. Mvovo scored his second and third tries, either side of Nkosi’s second, for a scoreline that looks more convincing than it actually was. 

Sunwolves – Tries: Takeshi Hino, Shuhei Matsuhashi. Conversions: Yu Tamura (2). Penalty: Jumpei Ogura.
Sharks – Tries: Lwazi Mvovo (3), Ruan Botha, Sbu Nkosi (2). Conversions: Garth April (3), Benhard Janse van Rensburg.

Sunwolves – 15 Kotaro Matsushima, 14 Shota Emi, 13 Ryohei Yamanaka, 12 Harumichi Tatekawa, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Shuhei Matsuhashi, 6 Yoshitaka Tokunaga, 5 Naohiro Kotaki, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Yasuo Yamaji, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Keita Inagaki.
Subs: Takeski Hino, 17 Masataka Mikami, 18 Takuma Ashara, 19 Hitoshi Ono, 20 Rahboni Vosayaco, 21 Keisuke Uchida, 22 Jumpei Ogura, 23 Yasutaka Sasakura.

Sharks – 15 Lwazi Mvovo, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Johan Deysel, 11 S’busiso Nkosi, 10 Garth April, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Philip van der Walt (c), 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Ruan Botha, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Subs: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Beast Mtawarira, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Etienne Oosthuizen, 20 Tera Mtembu, 21 Rowan Gouws, 22 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 23 S’bura Sithole. 

Photo: Roslan Rahman/Getty Images

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Mariette Adams