The Waratahs scored a vital 16-12 win over the Sharks in a crucial Super 14 match in a wet Durban on Saturday – a result which enhanced the play-off chances of the ‘Tahs and seriously harmed those of the Sharks.
The ‘Tahs, using every trick in the book, outscored the home team by two tries to none.
But most concerning for the Durban fans would be the shocking lack of urgency displayed by their team. There was no doubt the Waratahs wanted this more than the Sharks.
Rugby 365 reports that it was a strange match. Two teams with so much to play for and looking so lethargic. But then they are probably the most boring teams in Super 14 this year.
The first half started as if kicking was the only thing that rugby players do. Oh, it was damp and then the rain came down hard but it just lacked enthusiasm. The Sharks were the less enthusiastic of the two, their tackling surpassingly vague. They missed tackles and rode with the opponent’s impetus rather than driving into tackles.
The Sharks scrum, so dominant against the Highlanders last week, came off second against the Waratahs scrum when the old evil of collapses recrudesced. In the match 15 scrums were awarded and there were 13 collapses. In addition the Waratahs twice won put-ins by wheeling the Sharks’ scrum.
The Sharks attacked first but Charl McLeod lost the ball forward. Then the Waratahs attacked and scored. Steven Sykes was penalised for going in at the side of a tackle and Daniel Halangahu goaled. 3-0 after 17 minutes.
The Sharks had a golden chance to score when they worked an overlap to JP Pietersen on the left. He played inside to Botes who headed for the line with lots of support but the flank tried an underarm, no-look flick and a great opportunity was lost.
When Benn Robinson was penalised for an air tackle at a line-out, Ruan Pienaar goaled. 3-3 after 21 minutes.
The Waratahs, who were dominating possession into the wind, attacked through many phases. They went right. Phil Waugh and Benn Robinson, close to the line managed to manufacture passes to the right and Robinson’s came to unmarked Timana Tahu who dived over in the corner. 8-3 after 30 minutes.
Tahu tackled Brad Barritt high and Pienaar goaled. 8-6 to the Waratahs after 37 minutes.
Nothing much else happened in the first half.
The Sharks were much more enthusiastic at the first part of the second half till two errors gave Peter Playford the gift of a try. Then the rain came down harder and the Sharks pottered about, their backline increasingly chaotic.
They scored first when Luke Burgess was penalised for obstruction and Pienaar goaled but the Waratahs came back on the attack and created a golden, three-on-one opportunity down the right. For once they did not take it as Beale slipped but they stayed attacking and when Johann Muller went in the side Halangahu re-established their lead at 11-9 after 47 minutes.
The Sharks broke out with their best handling of the day and Terblanche kicked downfield. Turner saved on his line. The Sharks tapped the resultant free kick and John Smit was close and then Bismarck du Plessis got the ball on the line but the television match official said that he had lost the ball forward.
Still the Sharks attacked, wide to Odwa Ndungane and then Pietersen came surging for the line but was brought down by a brilliant tackle by Burgess. Pietersen tried to play on and conceded a free kick.
Breaking early from a scrum, Waugh conceded a penalty and Pienaar made the score 12-11 with 19 minutes to play.
Then came the Waratah try. They kicked to the right and the assistant referee got the line-call wrong, giving the Waratahs, instead of the Sharks, the line-out. From the line-out the Waratahs attacked and then went right where Beale slipped in a little grubber. Terblanche was first on the scene but not balanced as he tried a flykick. He missed the ball and Playford accepted the gift of a try.
There were still 16 minutes to play but the Waratahs shut the Sharks out in those 16 minutes with resolute defence.
Two tries deserves to beat no tries.
Man of the Match: Kurtley Beale at inside centre made opportunities, defended cleverly and was generally skilled and judicious.
For the Sharks:
Pens: Pienaar 4
For the Waratahs:
Tries: Tahu, Playford
Pens: Halangahu 2