The Sharks began their quest for Currie Cup honours with a 26-10 win victory over the Blue Bulls in Durban on Saturday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
The Bulls would have travelled to KwaZulu-Natal high in confidence following their first-rate performance against the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein last week. But at Kings Park, they more than met their match against an organised and cohesive Sharks unit.
The Sharks didn’t dominate any particular area of the game, but their ability to capitalise on the opposition’s mistakes with pin-point precision was crucial, while the Bulls made a lot of errors.
There were glimpses of brilliance from the Bulls, but poor execution in promising positions let them down more often than not. However, the free-running approach from both sides ensured that the game was played at a frenetic pace from one end of the field to the other.
Sharks prop Juan Schoeman crashed over for his side’s first five-pointer after they showed great patience and application close to the tryline. Rob du Preez kicked the conversion.
In a rather forgettable couple of minutes for Jeremy Ward, the Sharks centre conceded two penalties in quick succession, leading to a penalty and a converted try for the Bulls, scored by Bok midfielder Jesse Kriel.
And their advantage on the scoreboard might have been extended had wing Jade Stighling found the tryline after a strong run. But as it turned out, Du Preez tracked back and made a desperate try-saving tackle. The ball was dislodged in contact and went through seven pairs of Sharks hands in record time before Curwin Bosch finished off a quite remarkable try at the other end of the field.
And on the stroke of half-time, the hosts were in for a third converted try, from Kobus van Wyk, that pushed their lead out to 21-10.
The second half didn’t produce many points, but there was no lack of action or controversy for that matter.
The TMO overturned three tries in the half. First Kriel’s effort from a quickly taken lineout was ruled out after replays confirmed a Bulls player had taken the ball into touch after receiving a kick. Bosch was then denied a second try because Van Wyk was deemed to have played Johnny Kotze in the air, and then debutant Aphelele Fassi’s second try in the 72nd minute was ruled out due to a forward pass in the lead-up.
Before that disappointment, Fassi had made a great start to his senior career as he proceeded to score with his first touch of the ball. When Cameron Wright’s well-weighted box kick was fumbled by Manie Libbok at the back, Fassi gathered, scuttled away and produced a diving finish in the left corner for what proved to be the only points of the half.
Sharks – Tries: Juan Schoeman, Curwin Bosch, Kobus van Wyk, Aphelele Fassi. Conversions: Rob du Preez (3).
Blue Bulls – Try: Jesse Kriel. Conversion: Manie Libbok. Penalty: Libbok.
Sharks – 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Jeremy Ward, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Dan du Preez, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 Wian Vosloo, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Gideon Koegelenberg, 3 John-Hubert Meyer, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle (c), 1 Juan Schoeman.
Subs: 16 Kerron van Vuuren, 17 Khutha Mchunu, 18 Andrew Evans, 19 Lubabalo Mthembu, 20 Cameron Wright, 21 Johan Deysel, 22 Aphelele Fassi.
Blue Bulls – 15 Divan Rossouw, 14 Jade Stighlinh, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Johnny Kotze, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 André Warner, 8 Hanro Liebenberg (c), 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Hendré Stassen, 3 Conrad van Vuuren, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Matthys Basson.
Subs: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 18 Eli Snyman, 19 Jano Venter, 20 Raegan Oranje, 21 Tony Jantjies, 22 JT Jackson.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images