A replay between the Finalists from last year, but also perhaps a match-up between a team on the ascendancy and another on the decline.
The game was an ill-tempered, niggly affair, that started with Johan Ackermann getting some time off for bad behaviour in the third minute for a punch on Derrick Kuun. The card was deserved, but it was aggravating watching Kuun point at his eye when replays clearly showed him getting a rib-tickler.
The Bulls dominated most facets of the game for most of the … uhm game. The Sharks had started with Jannie du Plessis in the unfamiliar loosehead position, alongside BJ Botha and perennial journeyman Skipper Badenhorst, who went to the same school as, and even looks like, Rob Dylan.
I have come to the conclusion that Skipper Badenhorst is a flagrant homosexual, based on his absolute and utter refusal to ever throw straight in the lineout. Skipper, your protest is noted my friend – you can stop with the skeef business now.
Nonetheless, despite the Bulls getting a huge amount of ball, playing most of the game in the Sharks 22 and also enjoying a one man advantage (due to Ackermann’s card, not Skipper’s ability), they looked like a slowed down and less imposing version of the 2007 side. Missing some big names obviously contributed, but even last year the Sharks were able to match up to the Bulls physically. This year the nature of the game has moved on a bit, but the Bulls playing style has not.
It was like watching a movie on the Somme as Bull after Bull was handed the ball and tasked with running straight and ineffectually into the Shark directly in front of him. Sometimes they looked up before they ran, sometimes they didn’t; that was about all the variation. It reminded me of a story that said that one day lemmings would evolve to fly. Until then they just threw themselves to their destruction at the base of the cliff. Maybe one a Bull player would evolve a side-step or something?
To be fair though, the Sharks were also slow and unimaginative and were also caught out a few times when the Bulls varied the line of attack slightly, most notably when Danwell Demas was put into space to chase a clever grubber by Pedrie Wannenburg. I think its unfair to blame Demas for knocking on (and only marginally so) in attempting to ground the ball; although he certainly stuffed up another chance created by FDP later in the game, when the latter broke clean through from a maul.
The Sharks scored while Danie Roussouw was sent off for a professional foul just before half time – Johan Muller bravely choosing to go for the try instead of the 3 points, and Rory Kockott and Waylon Murray doing some incisive work in getting Odwa Ndungane over, partly due to some poor marking by Zane Kirchner.
The second half was more of the same with the Bulls going up 15-7 thanks to a Morne Steyn penalty and well-taken drop-goal. Around the 70th minute, JP Nel, who is apparently considering a career in law based on his extensive experience of judicial hearings, received yet another yellow card for a spear tackle on Francois Steyn, with whom he had been involved in a number of incidents.
This was the turning point in the game with the Sharks first scoring through Freddie Michalak, then exposing the Bulls decision to go for a 7-man defensive scrum with substitute Jacques Botes breaking on the blindside before feeding the superb Keegan Daniel for a great score, and finally, the loss of a midfielder resulted in Jaco Engels popping up in midfield only to knock on a ball that was chipped ahead and eventually grounded by Botes for the bonus point. Final score; 26-15.
Jaco Engels will certainly cop a ban for a stupid punch on Johan Muller, and might well decide to split taxi fare with frequent transgressor JP Nel, who is similarly likely to get an all-expenses paid vacation. I would like to send a special shout-out to Derrick Kuun, who managed to be involved in most of the fracas during the game – if only he played as well as he talked.
The Sharks will have to play well above this level if they intend to beat the Blues, with particular emphasis being placed on closing down attackers immediately, and not allowing the off-load in the tackle.
In addition, although Brad Barrit didn’t have a bad game, not enough is happening in the 10-12-13 axis to bother a top-notch team. Now that Kockott is there to give the backs quick ball, one would expect the backs to be more dangerous; and this was indeed the case: but only once Adi Jacobs came on. Dick is going to have think about this one.
Another move worth considering is to move AJ to lock and start with Daniel, Botes and Kankowski. Daniel and Botes are not huge, but having a fit Bismark du Plessis in the front row will mean that the tight 5 can carry a smaller than usual loose trio. Key to this will be a plan to stop the likes of big Nick Williams next week though.
Special mention must be made of Daniel, Kankowski, Botes, Burden, Jacobs and Michalak, who all had excellent games.Tweet