The Sharks lost their opening Currie Cup game to Griquas this afternoon, by 40 points to 34. Despite running up a handy 22-8 halftime lead, the visitors went to sleep alarmingly and their hosts out-muscled them at the breakdown in the second half.
Played in the teeth of a strong wind, the Sharks initially had the better of the encounter, although the game was characterised by sloppy work from both sides, particularly at the kick-offs. Quick tries to Lwazi Mvovo and Steve Meyer saw the Sharks take an early 12-3 lead, but this was gnawed away at as Griquas started to take control in the scrums and at the tackle point. The light Sharks back row proved ineffectual and as the game progressed, so too did Griquas effectiveness as their counter-rucking technique robbed the Sharks of much good ball.
Hooker Ryno Barnes scored Griquas’ first around the fringes of a rolling maul after the Sharks had been pinned on their line (and repeatedly warned by the referee). A good breakout just before half time saw the visitors extend their lead soon afterwards, though, as Mike Rhodes flopped over the line to score the third after good work from the Sharks forwards. The Sharks should have then coasted towards halftime, but a bizarre punch by flanker Jacques Botes, followed by his sin-binning, saw to it that they spent the last 3 minutes of the first half pinned back in their half, with only an Alistair Hargreaves lineout steal preventing Griquas from scoring a second.
The home team duly struck shortly after the resumption of play, though. With the strong wind now at their backs and the Sharks pack (down a man) in disarray, they surged up field and managed to get prop Steph Roberts over the line. Bok winger Bjorn Basson left the entire Sharks backline for dead ten minutes later, after yet another Sharks turnover deep in Griquas territory saw the pedestrian Riaan Swanepoel and Pat Lambie forced to turn in defence. Lwazi Mvovo duly scored his second moments later to give the Sharks their bonus point, but the writing was on the wall all half as the hosts dominated the collisions and made full use of the strong wind at their backs.
The Sharks, holding onto the slenderest of leads, saw that wiped out as they again turned over attacking ball in Griquas territory and were forced to watch in dismay as another Griquas break-out saw man of the match Wesley Wilkins score under the posts. Basson scored his second soon afterwards and had it not been for a late Pat Cilliers consolation, the Sharks would have been on the receiving end of a real hiding.
As it was, they lost by 6 and will take scant consolation from the 2 bonus points received, as based on today’s performance, the Blue Bulls are going to give them a proper hiding. Back to the drawing board, Plumtree!Tweet