It wasn’t pretty, but the Sharks were grateful for the speed of Keegan Daniel, who scored a 74th-minute try to give them victory over the Lions in the Currie Cup clash in Durban last night.
Mike Green writes for the Sunday Times that it was a match that the tigerish Lions looked to have sewn up with a try by their No8, Willem Alberts, in the 64th minute, a score which took them to an 11-9 lead, but there was always a chance that someone like Daniel would add a little bit of magic that could turn a scrappy game into an unlikely win.
The first half was a dour affair as the teams were deadlocked at 6-6 at the break after Earl Rose and Ruan Pienaar — both playing out of position at flyhalf for their teams — had exchanged penalties in an error-strewn period.
The Lions should have been in control , with the Sharks having to make nearly twice as many tackles as the home team spewed out possession at an alarming rate at the breakdown — seven times in the first half alone .
Part of the problem seemed to lie with Springbok No8 Ryan Kankowski, who has looked a shadow of his brilliant Super 14 self since his concussion against Italy. Sharks’ coach John Plumtree responded by yanking him off at halftime and bringing on Daniel.
The Lions also had their usual suspects to thank for their superiority at the breakdown: captain Cobus Grobbelaar is always fiercely competitive on the ground and a player such as Alberts has surprising pace for someone who weighs 114kg.
Then there was Rose, who was full of imagination.
There were his little kicks past the defence, and would-be tacklers never seemed to be able to tell whether his pass would be short , long , or if he would skip around a player or two.
It was a pity, then, that the players out wide weren’t able to reward his imagination with some better handling.
The Sharks suffered similarly, with Pienaar’s imagination giving them some good ball on the front foot.
Tries: Keegan Daniel.
Conversion: Ruan Peinaar.
Penalties: Pienaar (3).
Try: Willem Alberts.
Penalties: Earl Rose (2).