The Sharks under 19 team were comprehensively beaten 59-20 by the Lions at Coca-Cola Park over the weekend. The Lions scored 8 tries against the 2 of the Sharks.
The KZN juniors were outmuscled at the rucks and gave away far too many penalties. Their scrum was also placed under tremendous pressure, much of it being caused by the two massive Lions locks. With ball in hand, the Lions seemed to make light work of advancing across the gain-line, which also called into question the effectiveness of the first-time tackling. Lineout turnovers were added to the Sharks’ woes once Marais was replaced by Mshali in the second half.
For the Lions, loose-forwards Ruaan Lerm and Stephan Nel were prominent throughout the match, while scrumhalf Vian van der Watt exercised good options and proved to be more than a handful around the fringes. The home team’s heavy pack led by example and paved the way for their backs to work off very good quality front-foot ball.
From a Sharks point of view there weren’t many positives to come out of the game, however an area that was pleasing was the constructive play of the backs on the few occasions that the ball came their way. They appeared to have purpose and direction with execution generally being very good. In this department flyhalf Robert du Preez, centre Ruan Allerston and wing Heinrich Arendse stood out.
The Sharks are a proud union, meaning that this kind of result will not go down well. However at junior age-group levels, one-sided away results of this nature are not unusual. They sometimes even stand out like sore thumbs at the end of a season, as the exception to the norm. The panic button should not be pressed just yet. Chances are good that the team will bounce right back.
Coach Ryan Strudwick has a massive week of preparation ahead of another huge challenge in the form of the Bulls away at Loftus. Perhaps an area that he will have to make a difficult call on is the second row, where players like Stefan Deyzel and Alwyn Janse van Rensburg could add much needed strength to the scrum as well as giving the team a more physical presence at the breakdown. Promoting these players would however also result in the Sharks having to work on more inventive ways of winning lineouts to compensate for the loss of specialist jumpers in the starting lineupTweet