The Sharks saw off a much improved performance from the EP Kings to claim a 33-25 bonus-point win in Durban on Saturday, CRAIG LEWIS reports.
After a shock loss to the Pumas last weekend, the Sharks will happily take the result, but there were certainly a number of nervy moments during the encounter, and some significant improvements will be required for them to be considered Currie Cup contenders.
The Kings impressively opened up a four-point lead early in the second half, but the Sharks ultimately boasted the necessary composure to close out the match.
There was a lack of rhythm to both sides' play in the first half, with 11 handling errors committed between them, but it was the Sharks who produced the brighter periods of play to take an 18-10 lead at half-time.
Yet, considering the Kings had found themselves 28 points behind within the opening quarter of their Currie Cup opener against the Lions last weekend, they clearly had a point to prove this time out.
It looked as if the Kings would head into the break 15 points adrift, but outstanding No 8 Tim Agaba made the most of a one-man advantage to score from the back of a scrum on the stroke of half-time after Philip van der Walt had been yellow-carded.
Kings lock Steven Sykes, formerly of the Sharks, and then scrumhalf Enrico Acker scored in quick succession after the break to secure the bonus point to take the visitors into an unexpected 22-18 lead.
The Sharks restored the lead when flank Dan du Preez scored from the back of a driving maul in the 55th minute, while Kings flyhalf George Whitehead and opposite number Lionel Cronjé then traded a penalty each as the game hung in the balance.
However, it swung the way of the hosts when replacement Paul Jordaan announced his long-awaited return to the Currie Cup after a horror hip injury, with the fleet-footed youngster scoring an outstanding solo try to clinch the bonus point.
The conversion from Sharks fullback Joe Pietersen opened up an eight-point buffer, and from there the Kings were unable to fight their way back, although they will be satisfied with a far more competitive performance.
Pietersen opened the scoring with an early penalty, but it would be Whitehead who exposed some suspect defence from the home side to score the first try in the 12th minute.
However, the Sharks promptly responded with two tries in two minutes, with winger André Esterhuizen first collecting a well-weighted cross-kick to score, while Cronjé then went over unopposed.
The Sharks didn't have it all their own way for the remainder of the encounter, but they will gladly bank the five logs points attained at home.
Sharks – Tries: André Esterhuizen, Lionel Cronjé, Dan du Preez, Paul Jordaan. Conversions: Joe Pietersen (2). Penalties: Pietersen (3).
EP Kings – Tries: George Whitehead, Tim Agaba, Steven Sykes, Enrico Acker. Conversion: Scott van Breda. Penalty: Whitehead
Sharks – 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Wandile Mjekevu, 12 Heimar Williams, 11 André Esterhuizen, 10 Lionel Cronjé, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Daniel du Preez, 6 Jean Deysel, 5 Marco Wentzel (c), 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Monde Hadebe, 1 Juan Schoeman.
Subs: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Gerhard Engelbrecht, 18 Dave McDuling, 19 Francois Kleinhans, 22 Michael Claassens, 21 Paul Jordaan, 22 SP Marais.
EP Kings – 15 Scott van Breda, 14 Siyanda Grey, 13 JP du Plessis, 12 Tim Whitehead, 11 Luther Obi, 10 George Whitehead, 9 Enrico Acker, 8 Tim Agaba, 7 Stefan Willemse, 6 Luke Watson (c), 5 Cornell Hess, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Martin Ferreira, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Subs: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Simon Kerrod, 19 Paul Schoeman, 20 Jacques Engelbrecht, 21 Kevin Luiters, 22 Karlo Aspeling.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images