Sean Everitt’s Sharks XV side secured home ground advantage in the Vodacom Cup play-offs this weekend, with a hard-fought win away over the Pampas XV seeing them take second place on the overall South Section log. Their dubious reward, though, will be a quarter-final showdown against the Blue Bulls at Kings Park this weekend.
It was a fairly typical performance from the Sharks second-stringers, who ran out to a huge 19-0 lead through three good tries, before resting on their laurels and allowing the Pampas boys to come back strongly. First-half tries by the impressive Paul Jordaan, Cobus Reinach and Sbura Sithole, two of which were converted by Gouws Prinsloo, did little to dampen the spirit in the Pampas team and they proceeded to whittle away at the deficit through the boot before scoring their first try to put the visitors under pressure.
That score seemed to sting them back into life, albeit briefly, when Sithole scored his second to secure the bonus point. The Argentinians hit back with their second not long afterwards and it took a late penalty from Prinsloo to finally seal the result, bringing up the Sharks’ 30th point in the process. Pampas replacement flyhalf Benjamin Madero had the final say, though, slotting a last-second drop goal to ensure a bonus point from the 24-30 defeat, in the process securing fourth-place for his side and eliminating Boland from the play-off race.
Everitt and his team will now have their work cut out for them against the Bulls, a side that the Sharks have historically struggled to beat in the Vodacom Cup due in no small part to more established junior structures and generally stronger depth in Pretoria. With a number of the players who took part on Saturday – including Odwa Ndungane, Jean Deysel, Ryan Kankowski, Marius Joubert and Beast Mtawarira – unavailable for the quarter-final due to eligibility constraints, there will be little continuity going into the game and a feeling that, for the umpteenth time this season, the Sharks XV will be starting from scratch.
The only slight silver lining here is that, with the senior Bulls on tour, at least a few fringe Super Rugby players will be missing from their Vodacom Cup squad this weekend.
Pampas XV 24 (3) Sharks XV 30 (19) :
Pampas XV: – Tries: Facundo Barrea, Manuel Madero. Conversion: Benjamin Madero. Penalties: Santiago Gonzales Iglesias, Benjamin Madero. Drop Goals: Santiago Gonzales Iglesias, Benjamin Madero.
Sharks XV: – Tries: Paul Jordaan, Cobus Reinach, Sibusiso Sithole (2). Conversions: Gouws Prinsloo (2). Penalties: Prinsloo (2).