Adrian Jacobs has left World Cup winning Springbok centre Jaque Fourie with a lot of work to do if he hopes to regain his old No 13 jersey for the forthcoming series against the British and Irish Lions.
Gavin Rich writes in the Cape Argus that the Sharks centre was one of new national coach Peter de Villiers’ most surprising selections in 2008 – but he never let the coach or the Boks down and featured in several of the better attacking moments produced by the South Africans.
He has continued where he left off last year in the current Super 14, and JP Pietersen, the Sharks and Bok left wing, can thank his teammate for the fact that suddenly it is raining tries for him.
Jacobs did it against the Lions in the second game of the competition in Durban when he put in an electrifying burst down the left touch-line to put Pietersen in.
Against the Blues on Saturday Pietersen again profited and it was Jacobs’ run off some clever thinking from wing Odwa Ndungane, who made the initial break from turn-over ball at the ruck, that set the Sharks on the road to an impressive victory.
The Sharks’ 35-31 win was the stand-out performance of the weekend’s round of matches, but perhaps they were seduced by that early try, which came off turn-over ball, for they made life difficult for themselves in the first half through their failure to respect territory.
They gave away one try by playing from their own half, something they generally have stopped doing since John Plumtree took over as coach.
And they nearly gave away another, which could have seriously hurt their chances of winning.
Sharks assistant coach Grant Bashford, communicating by SMS from Brisbane, agreed that it was dumb rugby and poor decisions were made, but explained that the heavy wind that the Sharks were playing into in the first half made it difficult as it rendered kicking a treacherous occupation.
In the second half the Sharks were able to employ their usual excellent kicking game with much better effect, and by controlling both territory and possession they were able to ease away from their opponents.
It was only a late consolation try for the Blues that brought the hosts within range.
The most pleasing aspect for the Sharks would have been the way they managed to survive without Jean Deysel, and with matches against the Reds and Western Force to come, they stand an excellent chance of becoming the first South African team to return from tour with a 100 percent record.
The Sharks are one of three unbeaten teams after four rounds, but they do look the most likely to maintain that momentum.
The Bulls played their last match at Loftus for two months when they beat the Stormers 14-10, and in the two games they have played since their rout of the Blues there have been indications that they may be vulnerable when they play away from home.
The Waratahs continue to “win ugly”, as the Sydney media would have it, but as Wallaby coach Robbie Deans has already said, that is the way to do it early in the competition, and already there are signs that winning is inspiring confidence.
However, the Waratahs, who edged out the Reds in a Australian derby match, are in the same position as the Bulls in that they have played most of their games at home, whereas the Sharks have played three away.
The Crusaders have now dropped three games after their 6-0 defeat to the Highlanders, and could be said to be “doing a Proteas” for the way they have so suddenly lost their previous aura. There is good reason for it, of course, for they are missing some great players in addition to having lost their former winning coach Deans.Tweet