What an enthralling match! What a victory for sheer will and determination! It was a victory for strength of will, mind, heart and sinew. It was the Sharks’ best performance of the year as they beat the high-flying Stormers 20-14 at the Absa Stadium in Durban on a warm Saturday.
The result has a lot to boost Sharks’ pride and plenty to destroy Stormers’ complacency, for they are no longer assured of a home semifinal or even of a semifinal just at a time when a well-oiled gate of gold was opening for them.
The Sharks thoroughly deserved their win, even if one of their tries was as bizarre as any you will ever see.
The Sharks did all their basics with strong efficiency and then they tore into tackles and whatever came after the tackles.
From the first whistle they had the Stormers rattled, and it was their sheer determination that kept the Stormers out when a score seemed inevitable.
There was a tide flowing with the Sharks that simply would not be denied and the Stormers spent much of the match fighting to stay off the rocks.
There was also the matter of Big Match Temperament. Maybe because it did not matter all that much if they lost, the Sharks were the ones playing with confidence, with BMT, even young Patrick Lambie. Whereas the senior Stormers did not make an impression, every single Shark, however ordinary, made a full contribution. The Stormers were the ones that were jittery. It showed from the start.
Dewaldt Duvenage kicked his very first kick out on the full from outside of his 22. And he did it again soon afterwards. Peter Grant, the most reliable of goal-kickers, missed a penalty from in front of the posts with the score 17-7 and a penalty would earn a bonus point. Skilful men like Gio Aplon and Duane Vermeulen had handling lapses, but nothing compared with Sireli Naqelevuki’s hand in the Sharks’ second try.
Ruan Pienaar kicked a ball from close quarters into the Stormers’ in-goal. It looked like a really bad kick. It turned out to be the best bad kick of the season. Naqelevuki ambled back to the ball. He had 10 metres’ start on Pienaar and seemed to think he had all day. As he, standing up, went to ground the ball it did a little leg-break. He still had time to ground the ball but not the energy. He put a hand to the ball but failed to ground it and Pienaar arrived to dive on it for a try which gave the Sharks a 14-0 lead at half-time which happened just a minute later. During the match the Stormers made substitutions and replacements but Naqelevuki was not one of them/.
The other Shark’s try was an excellent one and it was started by a young man with genuine BMT. Rory Kockott started it with a strong, fast break on the left side of the field. The Sharks went right and Patrick Lambie gave to Jean Deysel who gave to Ryan Kankowski as the Stormers tight forwards scurried in defence. Odwa Ndungane was unmarked on the outside and Kankowski gave him the ball for an easy run-in for the try. Pienaar converted from far out.
The Sharks were putting immense pressure on the Stormers who seemed to lack the wit or muscle to shake it off. The Sharks kept it up. A kickable penalty became a line-out. An even more kickable penalty became a scrum as John Smit kept the screws tightly turned.
The nervous Stormers nearly got away when Francois Louw broke strongly and gave to Jaque Fourie who raced down the field, but Ndungane stopped him and Andries Strauss won a turnover. Juan de Jongh broke and then grubbered ahead, as he had done against the Crusaders for a try. This time Ndungane was there and counterattacked.
Kockott had another break, from a scrum this time, and Pienaar kicked a high diagonal for Lwazi Mvovo. The speedy wing won the air contest against Aplon but knocked on in in-goal. They were close again when they went through phases and Ndungane knocked on when a try seemed certain.
The Stormers started the second half with great promise. Jaque Fourie intercepted and raced downfield towards the Sharks’ line but Pienaar got him from behind. Fourie got the ball to Schalk Burger who was some five metres from the line when teenaged Lambie cut him down from the side and the Sharks won a turnover.
The Stormers mauled an attacking line-out and then freed up the ball going right. Tim Whitehead came off his wing as a decoy and Grant stepped inside Kankowski and Ndungane to score near the posts. 14-7 after 45 minutes. But it did not herald a Stormer revival as the resolute Sharks kept running into them.
In this half the Sharks kicked for goal. They decided that they were going to win. When Naqelevuki lost the ball forward before he was tackled and then held onto the ball, Pienaar kicked at goal but missed. But when Tiaan Liebenberg was offside, Pienaar goaled to take the score out of bonus-point range for the Stormers at 17-7 with 14 minutes to play.
Kockott then had a long break downfield and only a back tackle by Joe Pietersen prevented the try but Andries Bekker was penalised at the tackle and Pienaar made it 20-7 with 5 minutes to play.
Three penalties had the Sharks defending with might and main and then the try, when it came, was so simple. The Sharks were penalised five metres from their line and near their posts. Ricky Januarie tapped and gave to Francois Louw who charged straight ahead with Anton van Zyl riding behind him and, despite Deysel and Mtawarira, managed to ground the ball over the line. Grant converted and the Stormers had a point, just enough to keep them in second place, not enough to challenge the Bulls for first place.
Man of the match: There were lots of Sharks, including Jean Deysel Stefan Terblanche and Patrick Lambie. There was the next tier of Ruan Pienaar and the 15 points he scored and thy way he set his men running; and there was Rory Kockott with those telling breaks and his harassing of Duvenage. But our Man of the Match is John Smit – for the strength with which he played and for his calm, focused leadership. It is no surprise that he is the leading national captain in the history of the game.
Tries: Ndungane, Pienaar
Cons: Pienaar 2
Pens: Pienaar 2
Tries: Grant, François Louw
Cons: Grant 2
The Sharks: 15 Patrick Lambie, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Stefan Terblanche, 12 Riaan Swanepoel, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Ruan Pienaar, 9 Rory Kockott, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Jean Deysel, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 John Smit (captain), 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Patric Cilliers, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 Keegan Daniel, 20 Jacques Botes, 21 Andy Goode, 22 Andries Strauss.
Stormers: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Sireli Naqelevuki, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Juan de Jongh, 11 Tim Whitehead , 10 Peter Grant, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 François Louw, 6 Schalk Burger (captain), 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Adriaan Fondse, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 JD Moller.
Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Eusebio Guiñazu, 18 Anton van Zyl, 19 Pieter Louw, 20 Ricky Januarie, 21 Willem de Waal, 22 Joe Pietersen.
Referee: Stuart Dickinson (Australia)
Assistant referees: Pro Legoete (South Africa), Andrew Lees (Australia)
TMO: Johann Meuwesen (South Africa)
Article Courtesy of Rugby 365Tweet