Although Friday night’s card-fest between the Sharks and the Bulls was hardly one of those classic encounters you’ll tell your kids about one day, I like to believe it may just turn out to be the moment where just a little momentum started to go the Sharks way in this year’s Currie Cup.
Let’s start off by stating that this is not a good Bulls side. I think they were somewhat flattered by the results of their previous two outings. Maybe there was a little “Loftus magic” that pulled them through against the Lions, while the Western Province game was one that the visitors lost, rather than the hosts winning it. Let’s not be too harsh, since they, too, have a huge number of players out and are blooding a raft of junior players. Nonetheless, the current crop of Bulls looks pretty soft upfront, with indecisive, error-prone halfbacks and little to offer out wide, apart from the phenomenal Gerhard “Shadow” van den Heever.
Perhaps the most damning indictment, though, was the fact that they could not find a way to beat a similarly-weakened Sharks team forced to play with only 7 forwards for a staggering half an hour of the match! Mark Lawrence, in one of his most over-the-top and pedantic displays of refereeing in a long time, did his level best to hand this one to the Bulls on a plate, yet the aimless blue horde could do nothing to capitalise, save scoring a well-worked try deep into injury time to salvage a losing bonus-point. It’s a pretty sad to note how many of their fans seem to think that this solitary log point is, in fact, something to be proud of, given how heavily the odds in this match were stacked in their favour.
Let’s talk about the Sharks, though. I thought they were incredibly good value for their win, remembering at all times the monumental extra effort that each man was forced to put in, particularly on defence, during the all-to-frequent times that the side was depleted due to ridiculous cardings. And ridiculous they were. I ask with tears in my eyes, how Albert van den Berg could have been sent off for something that an inexperienced touch judge “thought he saw”. There is seemingly absolutely zero corroborating evidence whatsoever that the alleged offence even took place. That the player was carded was one thing – that a perfectly legitimate try was disallowed as a result is something else completely. Refereeing incompetence of the highest order, only to be outdone by the frankly ludicrous sin-binning of Jacques Botes for a “sharp shoulder”. Now I’ve been watching this game for a few years and I’ve never come across the term before. To card a player for entering a ruck legally is just plain ridiculous and makes one wonder whether there isn’t some sort of bizarre agenda at play here.
Skipper Badenhorst’s infringement was a real one, sure and given that the team had been warned, I guess it was fair that somebody had to go, although carding any individual player for a first infringement does seem harsh. Didn’t big Skip do well to score that try, though? Kudos, mate!
There were solid performances all over the park, though. Pat Cilliers stood up well in the srcums and really had a beaut of a game in the tight loose. Steven Sykes was all fire and brimstone, while the twins, Jean Deysel and Keegan Daniel were at their individual best – the former sublime in his patented role of “battering-ram-fetcher”, while the latter’s support play was superb. Hats off to Botes, too, who played a much better game than he has in the recent past.
Rory Kockott and Monty Dumond controlled things well, while I felt that Riaan Swanepoel, in particular, was outstanding. The outside backs were pretty quiet, although Stefan Terblanche deserves special mention for keeping things calm at the back and motivating the troops through some pretty trying times.
Don’t underestimate the values of this win, friends. The Sharks now have just a little bit of that winning feeling back and head to Bloemfontein with their tails up – and some reinforcements on the way. An away win there, coupled with an easier game against the Leopards the following week and we may just find that the initial doom and gloom after the Province defeat may be no more than an unhappy memory.Tweet