John Plumtree’s impressive Sharks team overcame some early spirited play by their hosts to run out convincing 51-6 winners over the Platinum Leopards on Friday night. While the Sharks were impressive in going about their business, one can only wonder how long the Leopards can possibly continue to masquerade as a Premier Division team, given that a clear majority of the 28 supporters that pitched up for the game were wearing Sharks colours.
The Sharks side, featuring a fair few changes to the unit that annihilated the Golden Lions the week before, took a little time to get into their stride, with the Leopards initially proving equal to the task on defence. Some inconsistent whistling at the breakdown saw the hosts enjoy a number of penalties, two of which were converted by flyhalf Neill Jacobs. Those would be the only points the Leopards managed to score on a night when their handling and option-taking let them down with monotonous regularity.
The Sharks, in contrast, never looked in any sort of trouble and scored their first try through left wing Lwazi Mvovo about 20 minutes in – this after a period of sustained forward possession that saw the ball expertly spun wide within the 22. A pair of tries off the back of driving mauls, the first two prop Pat Cilliers and the other to number 8 Willem Alberts effectively ended the match as a contest even before Louis Ludik dived over for the bonus point score just before the break. The Sharks, to be fair, were some way off their best, with scrumhalf Rory Kockott battling to keep up with the high-tempo game that the team is playing these days. His penchant for taking the wrong option – and occasionally dying with the ball as a result – again came to the fore and if we’re honest, it wasn’t the sort of performance that will cause Plumtree any hesitation when he names Charl McLeod to start at 9 against Western Province next week.
Kockott atoned for his sins, at least to an extent, in scoring the Sharks’ fifth try shortly after half time, courtesy of a beautiful break through a gaping hole in the Leopards’ defence. Captain Stefan Terblanche, who enjoyed his best game in Sharks colours for some time, finally nailed the coffin shut with two scores of his own, but with the game well sewn up and 20 minutes still to play, the Sharks lost a little of their structure and intensity on attack. The bench was duly emptied and the presence of Bismarck du Plessis, at his penalty-conceding worst, gave the Leopards a fair bit of ball. The rhythm had been well disrupted by this stage though and beside some exciting jinking from Mvovo at every conceivable opportunity, the Sharks failed to trouble the scorers any further. What was impressive, though, was the way they defended their lines to the last and kept the Leoaprds scoreless – an area in which replacement centre Riaan Swanepoel took the lead and was frankly outstanding.
Keegan Daniel was named man of the match, but in reality, it could equally have gone to any of a number of players, including Ross Skeate, Alberts, Terblanche or Mvovo. apart from Kockott and du Plessis, both of whom are currently struggling for form, the Sharks were impressive across the park and will look to carry the important momentum into this weekend’s crunch home fixture against the log leaders from Cape Town.Tweet