A match report by PostmanPat. Check out his blog at sharksredemption.wordpress.com/
I was one of the many thousand humans who were fortunate enough to gain entrance into Newlands yesterday. The vibe was nothing like King’s Park but we came for the win, not to appreciate the lack of atmosphere. At half-time it was 0-10, which made me a bit uneasy, more so because I was sitting with only Stormers fans. However, having watched the game on tv there wasn’t that much to be worried about. Ruan missed three early kicks which would’ve given us the momentum early on but to be fair all three were difficult and there was a swirling wind to deal with. The other things which lead to a scoreless first half was poor first-time tackling, very average tactical kicking, and unnecessary infringements at the breakdown. This meant we were constantly on the back foot, struggling to put together more than a couple of phases. It’s worth remembering that it was only the first 40 minutes of a four month mission. John Plumtree said that he wasn’t worried at this point which is great. He really shouldn’t have been, and it’s a good sign that they know what they’re capable of and what they need to be doing. There wasn’t much to judge the backline on during the first half.
The second half was controlled by a very calm and mature Sharks team. It started with a great interchange of passes but once again they missed an opportunity to get onto the scoreboard. It was during this move that Jean de Villiers took a knock and had to be stretchered off. The change in momentum from this point onwards was remarkable and during the next 25 minutes the Sharks proceeded to win the game. The Stormers didn’t look the same without their star player and leader but the Sharks did step up a few gears. They improved on all the areas in which they struggled in the first half. Notably, Stefan kicked more effectively and looked a lot more solid at the back. The forwards managed to build on the majority of possession they got and finally the Sharks carried the ball through phases and created space by moving the ball through the hands.
Kockott took over the kicking and kicked a long-range effort with his first attempt. The Sharks suddenly looked like they knew this was a game they could win and settled into doing what they needed to. Kicks were less aimless and used effectively to turn the Stormers around and chase up to defend aggressively. Bismarck came on and was his usual self; awesome. John Smit moved to loosehead and got the better of Mujati. The first try came on 60 minutes when aggressive defending at a lineout lead to a free kick. It was taken quickly and John Smit barged over. Five minutes later an awesome run of play starting from a scrum on our own 5m line saw Stefan round off a great try. I have a feeling we will be seeing many more such tries. At this point there was only one team on the park. The Stormers scored through Peter Grant and scared the Sharks at the end but our defense held well and a well-deserved 4 points were earned. The Sharks will be happy to head back to King’s Park to face the Lions, who shouldn’t pose too many problems. Coming back from an average first half and a 10 point deficit against a team that look certain to finish in the top 6 is a good way to start this campaign.
The Sharks look like a team that know how to win. It’s something they’ve gained from making the semi’s last year and winning the CC. It’s a trait which all champion sides show and the Sharks definitely have it. The forwards were awesome, Stefan got better as the game went on, Rory was magnificent, and Adi ran with purpose and distributed very well. The wings chased up well but were relatively quiet. That will change when Ruan and Frans work out their partnership. They haven’t played together as 10-12 so it will take time but when it comes off there won’t be a team in the competition that can stop the Sharks. It’s our time!