The Sharks powered their way to a 32-10 (halftime 8-3) victory over Vodacom Western Province in an Absa Currie Cup match in Cape Town on Friday evening.
Zelim Nel writes on Superrugby that Western Province started the match enthusiastically, and the bevy of youngsters in the starting line up made for an intense opening spell that featured a number of big hits and fast-paced action.
But the home team failed to contain the Sharks pack in the tight-loose exchanges, and by gaining metres off the fringes of the breakdown the visitors soon opened up spaces for their backs to exploit.
Tries by hooker Skipper Badenhorst, fullback Stefan Terblanche, flyhalf Frederic Michalak and lock Albert van den Berg earned the Sharks the four-try bonus point, while scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar added three conversions and a penalty, and Michalak tallied a drop goal.
For WP, flyhalf Joe Pietersen kicked a penalty and converted eighthman Nick Koster’s try.
The visitors took the lead in the first minute when WP lock Ross Skeate spoiled a Sharks lineout deep in his 22 by tapping it back, but Badenhorst beat everyone to the ball to dive over in the corner.
Pienaar’s conversion attempt was unsuccessful, but a 45-metre penalty kick 16 minutes later gave the Sharks an eight-point lead.
Pietersen found the mark with one of three kicks at goal, splitting the uprights with a 20-metre penalty at the start of the second quarter, and the visitors left the field with the lead at the break.
The Sharks extended their lead to 12 points five minutes after the restart when the ball was hacked into the home team’s 22, WP captain Gcobani Bobo fumbled the ball as he attempted to gather, and Michalak scooped up the ball and offloaded to Terblanche who cantered over to dot it down behind the posts.
WP manufactured their only try five minutes later when 19-year-old Koster barrelled over from close range after a sustained period of pressure from the home team, and Pietersen’s conversion reduced the deficit to seven points.
The Sharks worked their way into WP’s 22 six minutes later before Pienaar zipped a pass back to Michalak who was poised in the pocket, and the Frenchman banged over a 25-metre drop goal.
Michalak struck again at the beginning of the fourth quarter when the Sharks won a scrum inside the home team’s 22, and the flyhalf exploited a moment of uncertainty between scrambling scrumhalf Bolla Conradie and Bobo to ground the ball under the crossbar.
With seven minutes remaining, Stefan Terblanche scythed through the staggered home team’s defence, the ball was quickly made available and moved through the hands to the right, where a ranging Van den Berg bounded over to score the Sharks’ fourth bonus-point try.
The away win moves the Sharks to the top of the standings with 28 log points, while Western Province end the round in fifth place with 17 points.
Both teams have a three-week break in their schedules before the Sharks face Boland in Wellington and WP travel to Pretoria to face the Blue Bulls on August 29.
Try: Nick Koster.
Conversion: Joe Pietersen.
Tries: Skipper Badenhorst, Stefan Terblanche, Frederic Michalak, Albert van den Berg.
Conversion: Ruan Pienaar (3).