The Sharks’ forwards laid the platform for their 28-24 victory over the Chiefs at Kings Park on Saturday. SIMON BORCHARDT reports.
The Sharks came into this match having won four of their last seven games against New Zealand opposition, including big wins against the Blues and Highlanders this season. And they picked up another victory against a Chiefs team missing 20 players through injury and All Blacks rest requirements.
However, Sharks coach Robert du Preez will be disappointed that his side didn’t win by a bigger margin considering they had 55% of the possession, with 24 handling errors blighting their performance.
In any event, the Durban-based franchise moves up to seventh on the overall log, ahead of the Stormers and Bulls, while the Chiefs remain sixth.
This victory was set up by the hosts’ pack, who made an early statement when they won a scrum penalty. A ruck infringement soon after saw Rob du Preez bring up 150 Super Rugby points for the season and the flyhalf then made it 10-0 with a self-converted try that came after good handling from the three front rankers.
The Chiefs hit back at the end of the first quarter when a long throw found Tyler Paul at the back of the lineout and the Canadian international went over from 10 metres out.
The visitors attacked again through their forwards, but a turnover inside the Sharks’ 22 allowed Louis Schreuder to kick into space. The ball was collected by Curwin Bosch, who looked set to score before being brilliantly tackled just before the tryline by Scott Stevenson.
As the match approached the half-hour mark, the Sharks turned down a gimmie three points for a 5m scrum, but that backfired when a miscommunication between Schreuder and André Esterhuizen saw the latter knock on.
Instead of leading 17-7, the Sharks soon found themselves locked at 10-10 when a high tackle from Philip van der Walt allowed Marty McKenzie to kick his first penalty goal.
The hosts made a strong start to the second half when Lwazi Mvovo rounded off a sustained attack, but all that good work was undone when Esterhuizen’s pass was intercepted by Charlie Ngatai, who raced away to put his side ahead 17-15.
The Chiefs’ lead was short-lived, though, with Du Preez kicking a penalty goal. Another big Sharks shove, led by the outstanding Beast Mtawarira, then forced an error at the back of a Chiefs scrum. From the resultant set piece, Cameron Wright darted over to score a converted try that made it 23-17. Mtawarira was substituted minutes later to plenty of applause.
Du Preez extended the Sharks’ lead with another penalty, and only a great cover tackle by Luke Jacobson prevented Makazole Mapimpi from scoring in the left-hand corner.
With the full-time hooter having sounded, some poor Sharks defence allowed the Chiefs to score a try, through Solomon Alaimalo, that earned them a losing bonus point.
Sharks – Tries: Rob du Preez, Lwazi Mvovo, Cameron Wright. Conversions: Du Preez (2). Penalties: Du Preez (3).
Chiefs – Tries: Tyler Paul, Charlie Ngatai, Solomon Alaimalo. Conversions: Marty McKenzie (3). Penalty: McKenzie.
Sharks – 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Rob du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Dan du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Philip 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 Stephan Lewies, 20 Jacques Vermeulen, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Marius Louw, 23 Makazole Mapimpi.
Chiefs – 15 Scott Stevenson, 14 Sean Whanui, 13 Charlie Ngatai (c), 12 Johnny Faauli, 11 Solomon Alaimalo, 10 Marty McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Pita Gus Sowakula, 7 Liam Messam, 6 Luke Jacobson, 5 Michael Allardice, 4 Tyler Ardron, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Subs: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Sosefo Alaimano, 19 Jesse Parete, 20 Matt Matich, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Luteru Laulala, 23 Toni Pulu.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images