A hard-fought 27-25 victory over Eastern Province down in Port Elizabeth on Friday night has set the Sharks XV up nicely as they now occupy second position on the Vodacom Cup log heading into the final round-robin game. A surprise victory by the Pampas XV over Free State has really set the cat amongst the pigeons in the South Section, however.
The XV got off to a flying start, scoring tries through Jean Stemmet and Skollie Ndlovu within the opening quarter. Monty Dumond converted both, but it was the home side who dominated the remainder of the first half, scoring two tries of their own and they held a 3-point lead heading into half-time, thanks in no small part to the boot of Justin Peach. Some ordinary defending just after half time saw Chris Jordaan score the Sharks XV’s third and although Peach soon struck back with a score of his own, his inability to convert proved telling in the final analysis. Dumond gave the Sharks XV the narrowest of cushions with a penalty ten minutes from time and although EP had two further chances to steal the game, neither penalty kick found its mark.
The Sharks XV pack played well throughout and it was their dominance which eventually proved telling; Justin Downey and Craig Burden were a handful for the EP defence all evening, while Lwazi Mvovo was probably the pick of the backs. In fact, it was a high tackle on the latter carried out by none other than De Wet Barry that saw the EP captain yellow carded late in the second half, a factor which probably swung the match in the final analysis.
Western Province’s narrow home win over SWD sees them now top the log on 22 points, while the Sharks XV hold second by virtue of a superior points difference. Three other sides, however, are also on 19 and the final week’s action should be full of surprises. The Pampas XV showed that they are probably the only side in the South Section with a pack to rival the Sharks’ and they will be going all out in their last match to down the Durbanites and claim home advantage for the quarter finals. Should the Argentineans manage to win through to a semi, that would then be played in Argentina, which would be a huge boost for them.
In the other crucial game, Province are away to a Free State side that has been severely depleted by injuries to Super 14 players. The Sharks (and Pampas XV) will be hoping that Free State can beat Province, thus opening up top spot for the winner of their match, but Boland are still in with a real shout of claiming a home quarter-final as well – needing to beat Eastern Province in Wellington. It’s all going to come down to bonus points, at the end of the day, but if the Sharks XV do manage to score four tries against the Pampas XV, they can put their feet up during the Free State game knowing they are very unlikely to finish any lower than second.Tweet