The Sharks were good value for their crushing 51-6 victory over the Leopards in their Currie Cup encounter in Phokeng on Friday, dominating the game from start to finish and scoring the only seven tries of the match.
Rugby 365 reports that the Leopards change in home venue for the match from Potchefstroom to the Royal Bafokeng Stadium did nothing for the level of support for the home team as spectators were scarce, with most blocks in the impressive stadium entirely devoid of spectators.
Again, as has become the trademark of their approach, the Leopards offered enthusiasm, and if their attacking skill and defensive competence was sadly lacking in finesse, there was certainly no lack of effort.
But their enthusiasm was not enough to stem the tide since the competition they face in the top section of the Currie Cup means that they need to have a lot more bite on attack and to be far less porous on defence if they are to win matches.
The Sharks’ Currie Cup campaign remains firmly on track with the execution of their gameplan developing happily. They absorbed brief spurts of initial pressure from the Leopards before taking firm control of the game – sticking to their structures even when well ahead and exhibiting clear signs of excellent teamwork.
The Sharks defence was tight throughout the match and the pressure they exerted on the Leopards allowed the home team little leeway on attack. Perhaps the Sharks were not sufficently clinical on attack in the second half but that is mild criticism since they were by then so far ahead on the scoreboard.
The forwards were formidable in their set-piece play, skilful in numbers at breakdown and their work-rate around the field was superb too.
The backs revelled in their surfeit of possession, with the skill of Patrick Lambie and Louis Ludik, the work-rate of Odwa Ndungane and the pace of Lwazi Mvovo the highlights. Up front, the power of Willem Alberts and tenacity of Keegan Daniel were as prominent as ever, while Ross Skeate showed he will be a valuable acquisition.
The Leopards opened the scoring in the first minute when Neill Jacobs slotted a short-range penalty goal. Patrick Lambie had an opportunity to level the score a minute later but botched the straight-forward penalty attempt.
It took 10 minutes for the Sharks to score their first try when from deep inside the Leopards 22, long, accurate passes from centres Stefan Terblanché and Andries Strauss gave Lwazi Mvovo the space to score a few metres in from touch. Lambie converted to give the visitors a 7-3 lead.
In the 15th minute Jacobs goaled his second penalty to reduce the lead to 7-6, but Lambie replied in kind five minutes later (10-6).
A silly, entirely unnecessary late tackle on Lambie by Christo van Niekerk two minutes later allowed the Sharks flyhalf to increase the lead to 13-6 with a neatly-struck penalty goal.
The second Sharks try came just on the half hour when from a second successive penalty inside the Leopards 22, the Sharks drove from a line-out five metres out and Patric Cilliers scored close to the touchline. Lambie converted to stretch the lead to 20-6.
A strong run by Keegan Daniel set Rory Kockott up for what seemed a certain try but a fine tackle by Deon Scholtz caused Kockott to lose possession in his dive for the line. The Leopards were penalised at the subsequent scrum and the Sharks bashed at the goalline before Willem Alberts crashed over for the visitors’ third try. Lambie converted and the Sharks led 27-6 after 35 minutes.
The bonus-point try came in the 40th minute when Odwa Ndungane committed defenders and Louis Ludik used his feet skilfully to beat two successive defenders on the inside and score the Sharks fourth try. Lambie could not convert but the Sharks held a commanding 32-6 lead going into the break.
Kockott scored the first try of the second half when he broke sharply from a ruck close to the goal-line. He converted himself (39-6).
The Sharks were decidedly fortunate to escape a yellow card when a high tackle by Andries Strauss on Jovan Bowles – who was in support of a ball-carrier metres away from him and not carrying the ball himself – drew merely a penalty and caution.
In the 56th minute Sharks skipper Terblanché rounded off another potent attacking raid to score a few metres in from touch. Kockott converted (46-6).
With 10 minutes to go, the Sharks attacked on the left and then moved the ball wide right to set Terblanché up to cross in the corner for his second try. Monty Dumond, on at flyhalf for Lambie, could not convert, but with eight minutes to play the visitors led 51-6.
With the Leopards still trying hard to make an impact on the game and the Sharks not quite as clinical on attack as they’d have liked to have been, there was no further scoring.
The Sharks will return to Durban happy with their performance. Playing the top teams in the competition will be a very different ball-game but the bottom line for this visit to Phokeng was mission accomplished – a comprehensive thrashing of the Leopards and five log points.
The Leopards will be disappointed with their heavy defeat but the truth is that they simply do not have the firepower to trouble the top teams on attack or the tight defence to prevent their goal-line from being crossed often.
Man of the Match: Though not as prominent as in earlier matches, Patrick Lambie again showed touches of his precocious talent, with his abundant skill and vision evident before he was substituted. A couple of late tackles failed to phase him, showing his resilience too. Louis Ludik and Lwazi Mvovo showed deceptive skill with ball in hand while spirited Keegan Daniel again stood out for his exemplary work-rate on attack and defence. But our Man of the Match is lock Ross Skeate, who was a real force in the set-pieces and superbly effective around the field, mobile, powerful and skilful. He’s a great new asset for the Sharks.
For the Sharks:
Tries: Mvovo, Cilliers, Alberts, Ludik, Kockott, Terblanché 2
Cons: Lambie 3, Kockott 2
Pens: Lambie 2
For the Leopards:
Pens: Jacobs 2