The Sharks have officially secured a home semifinal thanks to an emphatic 34-20 bonus point victory over the Lions, in their Currie Cup clash in Johannesburg on Saturday.
Rugby 365 reports that the Sharks not only moved back on top of the competition standings, but also prevented the hosts from securing a bonus point of their own – leaving the door open for WP next week to sneak a last-gasp spot into the top four.
It wasn’t a great day for the Lions’ pivot, Earl Rose, either. In a shocking display of turning over good possession – Rose kicked away five good balls to the opposition – and also “set up” two of the Sharks’ tries via a chip kick into the hands of flank Jean Deysel and then into the hands of JP Pietersen who did well to kick ahead for an easy score.
Those 14 points in eight minutes when the Sharks were leading 17-13 were the death knell for the Lions who should have been ahead at that stage, had it not been for the inept kicking performance by the selfsame Rose.
The Lions started off well despite some squandered possession by the Sharks, as the first score went to Trompie Nontshinga after just 12 minutes following some deft handing and beating the likes of Springbok wing Odwa Ndungane.
The try followed some sustained pressure by the Sharks which they followed up after the score, but again the Lions’ defence held.
A second missed penalty by Ruan Pienaar after 17 minutes brought unjustified reprieve for the Lions and this was rubbed in by a third critical ruck turnover for the home side.
A missed long-range drop-kick by Francois Steyn added to the Sharks’ woes, but Pienaar deservedly pulled one back after 27 minutes (5-3).
The Lions then took over and some exquisite handling was only nullified by good defence before the match went into an impasse in the last few minutes before the break.
Then the Sharks pack was harried into providing poor possession and two minutes before the break Nontshinga handed off Ndungane in a move that saw the Lions stretch their lead through a Rose penalty for the half-time score of 8-3.
A great line move by the Sharks less than four minutes into the second half was completed by a Pietersen try after a strong run by Ryan Kankowski – but the credit must go to Jean Deysel who had bumped off three Lions on the other side of the field before the ball was recycled.
With Pienaar converting, the Sharks were 10-8 to the good.
Then came Heinke van der Merwe’s try from a line-out after some good play from Jaque Fourie (13-10).
Kankowski, after good skills by the Sharks forwards and Pietersen, sent replacement Deon Carstens over for a converted try for the Sharks to lead 17-13.
The game was won, but barely a minute later Rose gave away the first of the two tries to the Sharks which they rubbed in with a last-minute penalty by Pienaar.
For the Lions:
Tries: Nontshinga, Van der Merwe, Joubert
For the Sharks:
Tries: Pietersen 2, Carstens, Deysel
Cons: Pienaar 4
Pens: Pienaar 2
Lions: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Michael Killian, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Doppies la Grange, 11 Trompie Nontshinga, 10 Earl Rose, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar (captain), 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Anton van Zyl, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Heinke van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Ethienne Reynecke, 17 Lawrence Sephaka, 18 Jannes Labuschagne, 19 Justin Wheeler, 20 Chris Jonck, 21 Louis Strydom, 22 Rayno Benjamin.
Sharks: 15 Stefan Terblanche, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Adrian Jacobs, 12 Francois Steyn, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Frederic Michalak, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Johann Muller (captain), 4 Albert van den Berg, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 John Smit, 17 Deon Carstens, 18 Steven Sykes, 19 Keegan Daniel, 20 Rory Kockott, 21 Bradley Barritt, 22 Waylon Murray.