The Sharks earned a valuable bonus point in their 35-14 victory over the Brumbies to elevate themselves to top spot on the log in an exciting Vodacom Super 14 match at The Absa Stadium Durban on Saturday night.
Michael Marnewick writes on Sharksrugby.co.za that this match was all about making sure they could maintain the intensity they showed last week against the Western Force, as well as overcoming the travel factor following their trip back from Perth. A bonus point would be a bonus.
However, their defense was turned into attack and when the pressure was on, they showed the maturity and professionalism to make good.
They had contrasting fortunes in the first half, showing their hand on attack and giving the Brumbies plenty to do on defence, and then being forced to defend for periods, especially in the second quarter.
It was tough, uncompromising stuff from both sides and there was never any question either side was not up for the challenge. The first try to The Sharks came off similar field position and effort to many of their tries so far this season, turning offensive defence in their half into turn-over ball to attack from, with JP Pietersen, enjoying a purple patch this season as far as the try-scoring stakes go, obliging his team-mates and fans by showing blistering pace and a clean pair of heels to open the scoring in the match.
The Brumbies hit back almost immediately after some deft footwork from flyhalf Christian Lealiifano who danced his way through the defence to score and it was game on.
The Sharks again turned stern defence into attack from deep within their own 22 and after doing the initial hard work, Adi Jacobs offloaded, a speeding Odwa Ndungane carried the momentum further and fullback Stefan Terblanche was on hand to take the final pass to score under the posts.
The Sharks had to survive some anxious moments on defence with the Brumbies keen to strike back, but they were up to the task and managed to see out the remaining minutes without conceding any further points.
They went into the halftime break leading 14-7, a try the difference, but quickly doubled that margin when Rory Kockott scored and converted his own try after sustained pressure from The Sharks early into the second half.
When Jacques Botes scored the fourth, bonus point try, there was still time enough for a resurgence from the visitors who were staring a consecutive loss on South African soil directly in the eyes, but when Ryan Kankowski put the final nail in the coffin, there was only one side in it.
The Brumbies struck back late to score a consolation try – which in the grand scheme of things was no consolation at all – and The Sharks had earned an emphatic victory over a foe who has had their number in the past – but not tonight.
The sublime turned into the ridiculous in the final moments of the match, Frans Steyn being targeted and being penalised simply for ‘being there’. Fortunately, it had no bearing on an otherwise outstanding effort from The Sharks as they enjoy the moment before preparing for the Hurricanes next Saturday again at The Absa Stadium Durban.
A pleased Johann Muller admitted afterwards that, “We came back from a really successful tour, and in the second half we put some good phases, put the pressure on and the tries came. It’s a step in the right direction for us. There were a couple of defensive mistakes in the first half and kicked some ball away, but kept the ball in the second and made the tackles.”
George Smith, Brumbies’ Captain praised The Sharks, pointing out, “They played very well tonight and showed how good they are on turnover ball and scored when they did . When we had the ball, we didn’t capitalise on the opportunities and that cost us in the end.”
Rory Kockott, Vodacom Man of the Match for the second successive week, said, “The boys definitely came out with attitude tonight, we knew what we had to do. Credit to the guys for sticking to the intensity.”
Congratulations go to John Smit and Albert van den Berg on achieving major milestones – 150 appearances for The Sharks in Absa Currie Cup and Vodacom Super 14 rugby – in tonight’s match.
Crowd: 39 148
The Sharks: 35 (14)
Tries: JP Pietersen, Stefan Terblanche, Rory Kockott, Jacques Botes, Ryan Kankowski
Conversions: Rory Kockott (5)
Brumbies: 14 (7)
Tries: Christian Lealiifano, Salesi Ma’afu
Conversions: Mark Gerrard (2)
Referee: Bryce LawrenceTweet