The Sharks produced a powerful defensive performance to clinch a 22-10 win over the Stormers in Durban on Saturday night. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
There is just something about this coastal derby that seems to bring the best out of the Sharks, and it was certainly the case once again this time around.
All season, the Sharks have ranked as one of the most effective teams on defence, and it was certainly this aspect of play that provided the platform for a highly impressive win that will ensure the Durbanites head into the June international break with a considerable boost in morale.
For the Stormers, last weekend’s win over the Blues appears to have served as just a temporary reprieve, as they were outmuscled up front, while failing to find any real rhythm on attack.
With some rain having fallen in Durban before kick-off, a small crowd turned up at Kings Park for this highly-anticipated coastal clash, but those who braved the weather would certainly have been pleased that they did so, right from the opening stanza.
In many respects the Sharks produced a tactical masterclass for the conditions, and in the context of a South African derby, as their defence and physical forward play proved to be both abrasive and accurate, while they kicked with precision.
By contrast, the Stormers lacked composure with some of their decision-making, and as they have done too often this season, the Cape-based side opted to turn down a couple of kickable penalties, but received no reward.
After dominating possession in the opening exchanges, the Sharks deservedly moved into a handy 8-0 lead after an early penalty by Garth April, while centre Johan Deysel showed good footwork to dance over for the opening try soon after.
Although the Stormers built some pressure from there on, they were repelled time and time again by the organised defence of the Sharks, with the visitors appearing to grow increasingly exasperated as a result.
In what rather epitomised the opening-half proceedings, it was from a steal at a lineout that Sharks lock Stephan Lewies dotted down for a crucial score in the 37th minute, while just before the break, the hosts won a turnover when the Stormers were on attack in the red zone.
Revealingly, very little separated the sides in terms of the attacking or defensive statistics during the first period, and yet the Sharks were fully deserving of the commanding 15-0 lead that they held at the interval.
There’s no doubt Stormers coach Robbie Fleck would have called for far greater composure and accuracy from his charges, and they certainly came out with far better intent after the restart, with SP Marais slotting a 44th-minute penalty to finally open the visitors' account.
The Stormers continued to pile on the pressure as they displayed much-improved patience with ball in hand, and after yet another determined build-up, Marais popped up to score before slotting the conversion to suddenly reduce the deficit to only five.
It appeared as if it might spark a Stormers comeback, but the result swung firmly in favour of the hosts when young winger S’bu Nkosi produced a moment of magic as he darted 40m to score a stunning solo set play try just after the hour mark.
The contest was quite aptly summed up when one final Stormers attack was thwarted by the outstanding Sharks defence, with the home side ultimately celebrating an extremely impressive win.
Sharks – Tries: Johan Deysel, Stephan Lewis, S’bu Nkosi. Conversions: Garth April (2). Penalty: April.
Stormers – Try: SP Marais. Conversion: Marais. Penalty: SP Marais.
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 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Subs: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Beast Mtawarira, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Etienne Oosthuizen, 20 Tera Mtembu, 21 Rowan Gouws, 22 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 23 S’bura Sithole.
Stormers – 15 SP Marais, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Siya Kolisi (c), 6 Kobus van Dyk, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Oli Kebble.
Subs: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Dewaldt Duvenage, 22 Juan de Jongh, 23 Seabelo Senatla.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images