The Sharks beat a combined Sharks XV side in a hard-fought internal warm-up match on Friday evening as they got in a good workout ahead of the Vodacom Super 14 which starts in just two weeks’ time.
Mike Marnewick reports for Sharksrugby.co.za.
The hot and humid conditions added to the heat of the battle – certainly this was no friendly match between teammates. With the necessity to get some game time under their belts ahead of the tournament and the last preseason match – against the Bulls next Wednesday – the Sharks started off tentatively and the first half was fairly scrappy. For many, it was their first match in three months, but that didn’t dampen their enthusiasm.
There was an element of rustiness which faded soon into the match, but it was the internal competition that resulted in neither side able to get going with the opposition giving as good as they got.
Massive hits contributed to the competitive edge – this was the real deal as players looked to give the coaches plenty of food for thought with the finalizing of the squad taking place in the next couple of days. No doubt there would be some sore bodies afterwards, although the good news was that there were no injuries suffered aside from the usual bumps and bruises.
Coach John Plumtree admitted afterwards that no player let himself down and together with the rest of the coaching brains’ trust, he is going to have a hard time separating the wheat from the chaff.
Played at a helter-skelter pace thanks to the effect of the ELVs and with squad places up for grabs, the teammates left their friendships off the field as the hits came fast and furious. With neither team able to press home any advantage, the scoreline read 0-0 after a heated first quarter.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 35th minute when JP Pietersen scored in the corner after some deft handling from Ruan Pienaar at flyhalf, Adi Jacobs and Stefan Terblanche. Pienaar converted from the touchline.
At this stage the coaches started making changes to give everyone a run – reserves coming on and players shifting from one side to the other, with Jannie du Plessis coming off, John Smit shifting to prop and Sharks XV Craig Burden replacing him at hooker.
Rory Kockott instigated the second try with a similar breakaway to an earlier effort which had unfortunately been thwarted by the cover defence, this time finding plenty of support to get Terblanche over in the corner. Again Pienaar converted from the wide angle and the first half ended with the Sharks hanging onto a narrow 14-0 lead.
In the second half, Sharks Under 19 captain Ross Cronje replaced Rory Kockott at scrumhalf and gave a very mature account of himself showing that he was not out of his league playing at this level. The Sharks made an early start with Ruan Pienaar gliding through a gap thanks to the quick hands of John Smit to put him into space, with the flyhalf converting to take the score to 21-0.
The Sharks XV struck back when Charl Macleod initiated a move that took his side deep into Sharks territory – only the defensive skills of Stefan Terblanche keeping his tryline intact. However, Michael Rhodes managed to get his hands on the ball at the lineout and powered his way over for his team’s first try. The conversion was unsuccessful and there would be no further scoring from his team as the Sharks asserted their dominance and took the game away from the opposition.
Ruan Pienaar and Ryan Kankowski played pivotal roles in the second half as their attacking prowess was rewarded with a further four tries, Odwa Ndungane scoring a brace, the irrepressible Keegan Daniel adding one and Kankowski finally completing what he had threatened all match, combining beautifully with JP Pietersen. Len Olivier converted two tries, Stefan Terblanche one and Ruan Pienaar the other in a faultless kicking display as the Sharks ended the match winning 49-5.
As far as warm-up games go, this one achieved the purpose of giving everyone in the squad a run at a competitive level and with no injuries and plenty of action and commitment, it will be viewed in a very positive light.
The Sharks will now host the Bulls at The Absa Stadium on Wednesday 4 February in their final warm-up game. The game will be free for 2009 season ticket holders – they must bring their tickets and suite holders will have to collect their free suite tickets from the Ticket Office.
For those without the above, tickets will cost R20 for adults and R10 for scholars. Seating for the match will be unreserved.Tweet