What a superb performance, Sharks! Keep it up and we’ll run the top teams very close.
The Sharks tight five really played out of their skins on Saturday and ultimately laid the platform for victory. Something was clearly in the water that the guys drank before the game, because all of a sudden, the synergy and cohesion that has been lacking in the pack all year was back. Carstens was at his bullocking best and Muller reigned supreme in the lineouts. The real stars, for my money, though, were Skipper Badenhorst and Alistair Hargreaves. Skip played his best game yet in Sharks colours and was everywhere. His scrumming and lineout work were impeccable and he hit every ruck as though his life depended on it. Even his Achilles Hands seemed to be be working for him. Hargreaves showed that mongrel streak that we’ve all been looking for. He added a real presence in the tight-loose, something we haven’t seen before.
But it was the looseis who really shone, showing the value of a tight five that is working at its optimum. Jacques Botes was everywhere, yet strangely enough it was Jean Deysel who secured all the turnovers. Wolla had another superb game; he really seems to be made of a different substance to the rest of the guys out there. Keegan Daniel reigned supreme at the back of the scrum and showed off a variety of skills at number 8 reminiscent of the great Zinzan Brooke. Just for once, it was the opposition getting bullied off the ball at every breakdown, in a furious display of competition and counter-rucking. The Griquas backs looked woeful, as the Sharks backs have so many times this season, behind a pack that being completely outplayed.
For the Sharks men, it was a different story.
Scott Mathie, after a fair amount of aimless kicking in the first quarter, finally seemed to figure out what it is that a scrumhalf behind such a rampant pack should be doing: pick up the ball and pass it. Once he got that formula sorted out in his head, he went on to do it again and again and again, turning in his best performance of the season in the process. Monty Dumond again showed that he has no boot to speak off, but can run some beautiful lines and is a crisp distributor at flyhalf.
The real destroyer-in-chief was Riaan Swanepoel, though. The youngster had oodles of ball and oodles of space and absolutely ran riot with the fragile Griquas defence. It’s not often you’ll come up against an opposition midfiled containing a scrumhalf and two fullbacks, so perhaps we should temper our enthusiasm somewhat, but Swannie really does seem to have the whole package. As crushing as the loss of Bradley Barritt will be to the Sharks, perhaps on Saturday we saw a glimmer of a silver lining in the performance the young Elvis-lookalike turned in.
The outside backs, predictably, had a field day and it truly was great to watch Waylon Murray, in particular, taking good ball at pace and rediscovering some of his mojo. Chris Jordaan and Lwazi Mvovo were busy and looked for work all over the show, while Stef did what he does best… All-in-all, a great team effort and a great result for the fans.
Sharks – you beauties. You did us proud, but let’s not forget the five fatties who really put their hands up out there. Men, we need you to play like that every week.Tweet