The presence of Springbok captain John Smit failed to inspire a largely second-string Sharks team, as they stuttered and stumbled to an unimpressive 19-7 win over the lowly Pumas in a Super 14 pre-season match in Witbank on Saturday.
Highlights for the Sharks were few – other than the fact that Smit, who has signed a one-year extension to his Sharks contract and will stay in South Africa beyond this year’s British & Irish Lions tour, managed to get some much-needed game time at tighthead prop.
Rugby 365 reports that to put the Witbank result in perspective it must be remembered that the Sharks reached the Super 14 play-offs for the past two years, while the Pumas are a struggling team in the lower leagues of South Africa’s domestic competitions – finishing fourth in the First Division (second tier) last year, effectively making them the third worst team in the country.
But Sharks coach John Plumtree could be forgiven if he looks past the scoreline.
It was, after all, a pre-season match and he was using the game to give his back-up personnel some game time.
Leading just 12-7 at half-time, the Sharks only managed to put the game beyond doubt in the 70th minute – when Len Olivier scored his team’s only try of he second half.
At that stage Plumtree had introduced a host of his senior stars to the fray – players like Ruan Pienaar, Johann Muller en Rory Kockott – who finally gave the team some direction.
The Pumas ill take heart from their defensive effort, while they also managed to harass the Sharks into numerous efforts at the breakdown.
For Plumtree it will be a case of lessons learnt, as he looks towards his team’s final pre-season outing – against the Bulls in Durban on February 4.
For the Pumas:
Try: Van Wyk
For the Sharks:
Tries: Dumond, Vulindlu, Olivier
Cons: Dumond, Pienaar