In a game that would have had the purists shaking their heads, Rob du Preez and his Sharks under 19 side recoded a remarkable 47-45 win over the Leopards at Kings Park on Friday. The result seals third place on the competition log – a remarkable feat for a side that lost so many of their early games – and put them on a collision course with the formidable Blue Bulls in this weekend’s semi-final.
Defence was not really much of a focus for either of these young teams in a match that delivered 14 tries over 70 minutes, but the backdrop to the match may well have provided some excuse for that. The Leopards came into the game with their own play-off hopes hanging by a thread; in order to progress ahead of the Sharks, they would have had to win by something approaching 70 points, while ensuring no log points for the Sharks. The Sharks, I think, knew that this scenario was unlikely and thus might have gone into the match with one eye on their semi-final encounter.
The Leopards, to their credit, bloody nearly got it right. Sharks tries to Tyler Fisher and Sean Robinson were eclipsed by four tries in the first half that saw the Leopard lead 33-12 at the break. They continued their efforts in the second, with Tyler Fisher’s second score coming in-between three further Leopards touchdowns that had the visitors in complete control at 45-19 with three quarters of the match gone.
When the Sharks did manage to score their fourth, though, through prop John-Hubert Meyer, it killed off any hopes of a semi for the Leopards and taking advantage of the drooping heads, the Sharks went on to score three times after that to secure an unlikely win as well.
Tyler Fisher’s third try brings his season tally to 13, head and shoulders above any other player in the competition. The Sharks will know, though, that if they are to replicate their success at Loftus (they won a close game there a fortnight ago) they will need to improve markedly in their defensive game.
Sharks under 19 (47): Tries by Tyler Fisher (3), Sean Robinson, John-Hubert Meyer, Cameron Wright and Louis Hazelhurst. Conversions by Rob du Preez (4) and Brendan Cope (2).
Leopards under 19 (45): Tries by Luther Obi (2), Neil Morrison (2), Sylvian Mahuza, Jacob Pienaar ad Andrich Nortjé. Conversions by Cobus du Plessis (5).