Discipline once again the thorn in the side of the Natal Sharks as they went down 29-14 to the Stormers in the last warm-up match of the Neo-Africa series at Newlands last night. CapeShark was at the game.
No team is going to win a game camped on their line for nearly a whole half and incurring two sin-bins in the process, that’s for sure. And so what had started as a great game with some excellent rugby either side of the half time whistle, rapidly degenerated into penalty bore-fest that only referee, Craig Joubert, will enthuse about.
As a spectator, who had arrived to watch a game of running rugby, I was expecting the referee to let the game flow a little more, given the inconsequential nature of it being a warm-up game. But then I suppose everyone had to do their job, and Joubert was pedantic about it to say the least.
The game started well enough with the Stormers showing some great running lines and the Sharks heavies and loosies making good ground. It would be an exaggeration to say any players ’shone’ but Keegan Daniel looked industrious, Jean Deysel was bruising as always and young Lambie showed he had the temperament to cope at this level (much to my relief as the kid looks barely twelve years old and I feared for his life on a few occasions).
The Stormers were the first to get over the chalk after some abysmal defence from the Sharks resulted in Schalk Burger running a great line to take the final pass and outstrip the defence, including a tired and porky-looking John Smit, who by his own standards had a forgettable night.
It looked as if the Stormers were in for an easy game but a couple of well-timed substitutions for the Sharks brought some respectability back to their play. In particular, Stefan Terblanche defied his sceptics (myself included) by running the ball and beating the defence on numerous occasions. Steve Meyer seemed far more potent with the ball in hand than Dumond. In what was to be their best passage of play, early in the second half, the Sharks found themselves with an extra man on the outside and some slick interplay saw Vulindlu canter in for an easy try.
But from that moment onwards it was all Stormers. Some alarmingly porous defence in the Sharks backline saw the Stormers surge with ease down the right hand touchline. Once they were in the Sharks 22 area, they never seemed to come out of it. After trying a couple of rolling malls, the Stormers eventually broke through the defence with a Tiaan Liebenberg try, which seemed to finally snuff out the spirit in the Sharks team. From my seat in the stands, I’m not qualified to give my opinion on the laws at the breakdown but it seemed an absolute dog’s breakfast with the whistle piercing the air nearly every two minutes. It wasn’t pretty either watching players endlessly substituting. With 10 minutes left on the clock, John Plumtree clearly decided the contest was over and it was time to look at combinations.
The final nail in the coffin was the sight of the modestly talented Fijian wing Sireli Naqelevuki streaking down the right hand touchline to score in the corner. Once again it highlighted the pathetic defence of our backline, that a player as limited as ‘Wookie’ undoubtedly is, should enjoy a brilliant solo run leaving a trail of Sharks players grasping in his wake. If this is the best our backline can do then I shudder at the thought of what’s to come this season.
The final score 29-14. The Stormers, it must be said, look settled and clinical. The old cliché is that you shouldn’t read too much into a warm up game, but you have to say their chances are looking good this season. The Sharks, in contrast, have a lot of work still to do particularly their discipline and defence out wide. Rest assured we won’t see them peaking too early this season. But there was enough to suggest that they will be competitive.Tweet