The Sharks picked up a bonus point win and I think it is best to just focus on that as far as this game against the Pumas goes. We played like a team who thought they were going to run over the opposition and maybe if we didn’t come into the game with that attitude that might have been the case.
In the first ten minutes several players coughed up simple chances and we did create plenty of them with some good first/second phase play. The problem was that the team wasn’t willing to hang onto the ball and do some hard work and set up tries with a couple of solid phases. Some individual brilliance by Craig Burden and Keegan Daniel in particular got us over the advantage line and in a good attacking position only for bad decision making, over eagerness, selfish play, handling errors and the biggest culprit of all, bad passes, to put an end to any chance we had to making something of good possession.After about 20 minutes of this bumbling, fumbling mix of brilliant individual and interplay to create clear chances for definite tries and absolutely shocking skill to finish of these chances, the Pumas picked up another one of the many turnovers our boys gave them and stormed through a massive gap close to the ruck to score a well deserved try in the corner, after coming through a period that could well have left them 15 to 20 points down. As it turned out they were the first to put any points on the board taking the first opportunity they were given.
It took the Sharks another 10 minutes to score their first try, Keegan Daniel going over at the back of a decent mall from about 15m out. Not that this inspired the Sharks to improve on the game they were putting up on display. It continued on in the same vein for the rest of the half, only in the last few minutes the Pumas saw a lot more of the possession and gave their superior opposition a lesson in the importance of holding onto the ball and setting up the phases. Their try just before halftime was a result of good solid phases put together and strong finishing from Ronnie Uys.
The Sharks came out ready to make a turnaround in the second half to overcome the 7 point deficit of the first half, only to have to wait about 3 – 5 minutes for a Pumas side who persisted with maybe their most annoying and effective tactic off the first half, slowing the game. The game had absolutely no flow and it wasn’t made any better by the Sharks’ inability to hold on to possession and Kaplan’s inability to take control of the game. It was very clear right from the start that the Pumas wouldn’t allow the Sharks quick ball, even if it meant doing it illegally. Kaplan just happily allowed them to continue doing so, until it was too late to salvage any chance of a free flowing game for the Sharks. He was only 32% to blame though; the other 68% was mostly the Sharks and little of the Pumas. Anyway I’m getting ahead of myself.
It didn’t take much time of the second half for the Sharks to string together a couple of good phases, showing some of the promise of last week, and for Charl McLeod to go over next to the upright for our second try. There was another 10min period of forgettable play, before the Keegan Daniel went over for his second try. A simple backline move from a 50m scrum got the ball to Mvovo in open space and the Sharks 5m out from the try-line. The Pumas was under pressure and did what they have been all day long, killing quick ball, only this time Kaplan decided even he had enough and the Pumas would have to defend their line with one man less. The resulting line-out proved that this was too much to ask, Keegan Daniel spotted some open space in the corner and was never going to be stopped on the day.
Unfortunately again this was followed by some ordinary play from the Sharks, this time even worse than the first half, because now this ordinary play wasn’t even preceded by brilliant individual play, it wasn’t forced by over enthusiasm and they didn’t throw chances away, they just played some poor rugby.
With 8 minutes left the chances of getting another try and a bonus point was starting to look rather slim, until the Pumas got their second yellow card, which turned out to be a red as it was given to the same man who was sent off before. So our hopes of getting a bonus point were back, but so was the very annoying feature off the Sharks’ play of that night, throwing away more chances. And I mean just literally throwing it away with absolutely shocking passes and handling off the ball. It was center replacement Andries Strauss and lock replacement Ross Skeate who made the two telling runs to get Keegan Daniel over for his hat trick and a bonus point for the Sharks.
With the final score at 27-17 you could blame a few individual performances. Monty Dumond looked pretty solid at fly-half, making no obvious errors, but his linking with Lambie was shocking and the two of them together looked a confusing mess out in center field. Dumond took too many of his possession into the contact, making only a few passes to Lambie who saw very little of the ball and when he did it was almost always under pressure. Steve Meyer and Andries Strauss was a definite improvement, Meyer being the more influential in the combination. Last week Lambie looked good next to him in a unfamiliar position, this week Strauss put the Sharks on the front foot every time he got the ball.
Keegan Daniel stood out as a performer, but he tried to play too much of the game on his own, so his biggest praise of the night will also be his biggest critic…Individual play! Craig Burden was a standout player again, I found myself whishing more of our centers can break like he did or maybe even that he would consider moving there himself. Charl McLeod is quick enough at the breakdown that he makes bad ball look pretty good. He had another great performance amongst all the bad ones.
The forwards was mostly solid, the line-outs wasn’t great, but overall not a bad performance. Willem Alberts is back, he had a couple of massive hits (that’s hits with ball in hand) and created good front foot ball. Jacques Botes was the opposite of Daniel, very quiet, and maybe on a day with so many errors, that can go down as a compliment. Ross Skeate was good when he came on, a lot more prominent than either Hargreaves or Sykes.
Stefan was probably our best backline player, aside from McLeod, Stefan was the only other backline player who created opportunities, made good passes and had no problem holding onto the ball. JP and Mvovo were given good opportunities, but neither could hold onto the ball on the day. JP was the biggest culprit, but I can say that he did play well if you factor out all the knock-on’s, looking for work, getting over the advantage line and creating space. Ludick barely saw any ball possession in the last 60min, but he didn’t make any obvious errors.
The game ended with a move pretty much summing up the game for the Sharks. Andries Strauss started a move with a nice break through the middle of the defense and ended it by throwing the try scoring pass waywardly to the referee’s assistant on the touch-line. We got our 5 points, but what a horrible game. Let’s hope it’s the last one.