robdylan

Sharks go down fighting in driving London rain


Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 27 Jan 2014 at 10:45
Tagged with : , , , , , , ,

Jake White’s Sharks went down 23-15 to a game Saracens outfit in London on Saturday afternoon, but will take much confidence from an inspired second half performance that saw them finish the stronger teams, despite some truly atrocious weather.

As a pre-season hit out, this match was pretty much just what the Sharks needed and several boxes were checked. Unlike last season’s meaningless 70-point romp against the Leopards, which yielded nothing new in terms of information, but certainly did add to the injury toll, this game will have taught the new coaching team plenty – with most of it very positive. While it was always going to be a tough ask for the Sharks to move from pre-season torpour to putting up a winning show against a battle-hardened outfit like Saracens, they very nearly prevailed in a game where neither the elements, nor luck, conspired in their favour.

Anyone fearing a lack of intensity from either side given the festival nature of this encounter soon had those fears put to rest, with the 9000-strong (and mostly expat) crowd treated to some truly furious hits, from the first whistle right to the last. The Sharks started strongly, surging upfield after the kick-off and winning a penalty shortly thereafter as a Saracens player went off his feet. Rookie flyhalf Tim Swiel stepped up to stroke over his first points in Sharks colours, giving the Sharks an early 3-point lead.

While the intensity certainly was there, it was clear that the off-season certainly had robbed the Sharks of much of their polish. While the likes of captain Bismarck du Plessis, Willem Alberts and the impressive Jean Deysel continued to make waves up front with ball in hand, the backs took their time in finding each other, with some hurried play and (in particular) poorly-executed kicks, handing the advantage back to Saracens. Cobus Reinach, who endured a rather forgettable afternoon, has a kick charged down early on and it took some desperate defensive work – with Swiel prominent – to keep Saracens out.

While they may have survived that first onslaught, the Sharks battled for the rest of the half to live with a Saracens side that were quite simply more fluid and composed in everything they did. A few indiscretions at the breakdown and on the kick chase (with poor timing seeing Saracens catchers hit before they came back down) saw the penalty count start to mount against the visitors, with excitable young referee Tim Wigglesworth showing signs of losing his rag with them alarmingly early in the contest. The scrum contest certainly went the hosts’ way in those early stages too, with Saracens’ first points, via a Charlie Hodgson penalty, coming around the 20-minute mark after Jannie du Plessis was penalised for dropping his bind. A further successful shot came shortly afterwards and while the Sharks were certainly not far behind on the scoreboard at 3-6 down, one felt the momentum certainly was well against them.

Things went from bad to much, much worse in the minutes that followed. Etienne Oosthuizen was shown a yellow card for collapsing a Saracens driving maul five meters from the Sharks line and while there was little doubt that the call, though perhaps a bit harsh, was a fair one, it was the “Paul Honiss moment” that followed which really proved the suckerpunch. Having signaled time off and with a Saracens player receiving attention on the penalty spot, Wigglesworth bizarrely somehow allowed a quick tap penalty from Neil de Kock, despite the Sharks clearly being unaware that play was back on. England winger David Strettle strolled over in the left-hand corner for the simplest of sucker-punch tries before Oosthuizen had even managed to reach the touchline, with Hodgson’s successful conversion taking Saracens out to a handy 13-3 lead.

While one can forgive Wigglesworth for the first card, his decision to dish up the same to Pieter-Steph du Toit from the very next kick-off was simply crazy. Perhaps had he had the benefit of a TMO, he might have changed his mind, but when the young Springbok received his own set of marching orders for a very accidental-seeming collision with a Saracens support player, the jeers of the crowd reflected the general feeling that the inexperienced official was in danger of killing the contest by over-reaction. If White wanted a test of his team’s character, though, then those next ten minutes, with a 6-man Shark pack holding their shape and denying Saracens any further points, would have given him just that.

Alas, as so often happens, the Sharks conceded against just on half time, ironically just seconds after both locks had returned to the fray. A slow pass from Reinach to Swiel saw Saracens defenders able to close down the Sharks’ space and with an enticing overlap looming, the young flyhalf’s long pass to centre Andre Esterhuizen was snapped up by Hodgson, who streaked away for the simplest of scores. At 20-3 up, it was a confident Saracens side that departed for the half-time oranges. Bismarck du Plessis, on the other hand, had much talking to do in the shed.

It was a different Sharks team that took the field after the break, however, with the weather starting to turn. As the howling wind brought in rain from the west, the Sharks pack started to find their rhythm and some measure of control. A few timely substitutions helped, with Charl McLeod and Jacques Botes adding hugely to the cause, Swiel clearly enjoying the quicker service from the base that the experienced scrumhalf ensured. While the first 20 minutes of the half yielded no further score, it was the Sharks who struck next, after White had cleared his bench and ensured an injection of fresh legs which helped maintain the intensity up-front. Kyle Cooper and Deysel played a big role as the forwards inched closer to the line via the pick-and-go, before Esterhuizen powered over for a maiden senior try in Sharks colours about an hour in. Swiel’s conversion made the game a contest once more, with Saracens leading 20-10.

A second followed not long after, with Heimar Williams – on as a replacement at wing for Lwazi Mvovo – finishing well in the left-hand corner, again after strong work from the forwards. Swiela unfortunately found the conversion too hard, but at 15-20 down, the Sharks were now on the up and pushing hard for the win. Alas, Saracens and Wigglesworth had other ideas, with a further penalty to the hosts, awarded minutes after that try, taking them back out to an 8-point lead that the Sharks, despite some good play in driving rain, were unable to overturn in the final 10 minutes.

Speaking of Mvovo, early concerns that he may have suffered serious injury – he was stretchered off in the 48th minute – have since been allayed, with both player and management confirming nothing worse than a bit of a knock to the head, which was handled with utmost caution by the medical staff at the ground.

Scores:
Saracens (23): Tries David Strettle, Charlie Hodgson. Conversions Hodgson (2). Penalties Hodgson (3).
Sharks (15): Tries Andre Esterhuizen, Heimar Williams. Conversion Tim Swiel. Penalty Swiel.



23 Comments

  • I thought it was a pretty decent warm up. Definitely worth it. Andre Esterhuizen looked great.

  • Comment 1, posted at 27.01.14 10:52:57 by West Indies Cricket Board Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    West Indies Cricket BoardTeam captain
     
  • Good to hear that Mvovo is ok! Anyway, I also thought that there was more positives than negatives. Now I just cant wait for the start of SR!

  • Comment 2, posted at 27.01.14 11:03:44 by R Hayward Reply

    Super Rugby player
     
  • @West Indies Cricket Board (Comment 1) : Deysel very busy and Mcleod certainly made a difference

  • Comment 3, posted at 27.01.14 11:04:03 by West Indies Cricket Board Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    West Indies Cricket BoardTeam captain
     
  • Glad to see the youngsters exposed to some real pressure. Esterhuizen looks like one for the future.

    Deysel and Alberts were great. Just a worry over Reinach’s early seaosn rustiness. Hope he finds his feet soon.

    Glad Mvovo is ok. Never nice to see a player stretchered off.

  • Comment 4, posted at 27.01.14 11:10:39 by StevieS Reply
    Author
    StevieSSuper Rugby player
     
  • I thought it went well. There was obvious signs of rustiness but that was to be expected. Reinach has a bit of a shocker and the Sharks might have won this if McLeod played 80 min.

    Defence was really good and intense and I thought the loose trio looked great apart from the odd lost ball in contact.

    Esterhuizen looks like a great prospect and perfect understudy for Frans.

    All in all White should be happy that he saw youngster coming through the game with their heads held high.

    Swiel battled a bit with Reinach’s slow service but looked full of running once partnered with McLeod.

  • Comment 5, posted at 27.01.14 11:13:06 by Pokkel Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Author
    Assistant coach
     
  • Normally, I am a glass half filled type of girl, however after Saturday’s match, despite the loss, I am so positive and soooo looking forward to the season to start! All the Sharks looked really good, with the exception of Cobus that is a worry. The scrum was a mess but they were scrumming against a pack half way through their season so no doubt this will be sorted by the time the bulls come to KP.

  • Comment 6, posted at 27.01.14 11:15:11 by Sharksmad - The Blog's Dudette Reply

    Sharksmad - The Blog's DudetteSuper Rugby player
     
  • Does anyone know when the bulls and stormers play their warm-up games?

  • Comment 7, posted at 27.01.14 11:27:01 by R Hayward Reply

    Super Rugby player
     
  • How awesome were some of the hits out there? Mouritz Botha’s on Deysel was one of beauty! Reminded me of Deysel’s on Spies a few years back during a Super Rugby game. :cool:

  • Comment 8, posted at 27.01.14 11:28:20 by rhineshark Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    Spirit of RugbyTeam captain
     
  • @R Hayward (Comment 7) : They play this coming weekend, on the 01st Feb.

  • Comment 9, posted at 27.01.14 11:31:44 by StevieS Reply
    Author
    StevieSSuper Rugby player
     
  • Reading the comments on the match thread this morning had me choking on my coffee..

    Thanks for the analysis Rob, seems we went okay, contrary to what people were saying on the match thread.

  • Comment 10, posted at 27.01.14 11:36:17 by Richard Ferguson Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Administrator
    Richard FergusonCoach
     
  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 10) : ag Rich… you know we mos have some very over-excitable fans.

    Must say, I was feeling very unhappy at half time, but that second half put a real smile on my face, despite the rain doing its best to wipe it off :)

  • Comment 11, posted at 27.01.14 11:43:14 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
    robdylanHead Coach
     
  • @robdylan (Comment 11) : @Richard Ferguson (Comment 10) : Well the ref gifted them a try so thats 7 points…and a few scrum penalties could have gone either way to be honest. So yes in general i think JW is happy. On a different point, when there i an infringement a penalty is given but those penalties often decide the course of a game but sometimes the infringement is through no fault of the player such as he is caught in the ruck and cant roll away etc or at scrum time both props go down and the ref picks 1 to penalise. I wish in those instances the laws allowed for a free kick rather than a penalty. I think we would see a lot cleaner and free flowing game. Just a thought.

  • Comment 12, posted at 27.01.14 12:32:25 by SheldonK Reply

    SheldonKAssistant coach
     
  • was enjoyable watching the game, it did look like we were getting the ascendancy towards the end big time.

  • Comment 13, posted at 27.01.14 12:36:20 by Dunx Reply

    DunxSuper Rugby player
     
  • @Sharksmad – The Blog’s Dudette (Comment 6) : Cobus is gonna be okay. Every rugby player has a couple of shockers. White will soon get him back into sniping shape.

  • Comment 14, posted at 27.01.14 12:40:54 by KILLER SHARK Reply
    Valued Sharksworld Supporter
    KILLER SHARKTeam captain
     
  • @SheldonK (Comment 12) : yes – not a bad call. Example being the first penalty against Oosthuizen.

  • Comment 15, posted at 27.01.14 12:41:58 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
    robdylanHead Coach
     
  • Positive game. Jake W may be able to get Cobus back to where he once was. Sat he should not have been on the field. McLeod should have had 80 mins. Perhaps JW just wanted to see what CR had in him .
    Bright futures for Tim Swiel, Heimar W, and perhaps Oosthuizen and Esterhuizen (and Fed Z)

    Big guys were solid. PSDT very good in the lineouts.

    Sarries’ tries were both soft tries. The Sharks definitely battled in the first half but both those tries against them should not have happened.

    McLeod and Jacques Botes made a big difference to intensity and speed.

    Imagine when Pat Lambie and Frans Steyn are added to the mix!

    Now I cannot wait for Super Rugby!

    What does anyone think of Jake’s idea of scrapping Super Rugby and having a South Africa / England tournament. Only two hours difference in time – making travelling a pleasure!

  • Comment 16, posted at 27.01.14 12:49:56 by [email protected] Reply

    DenCurrie Cup player
     
  • @robdylan (Comment 15) : Yeh it was just pointed out how many game winning penalties are awarded when there is actually no fault by nay player but the ref has no choice but to award a penalty. I mean its like awarding a penalty in soccer every time there is a foul- its crazy

  • Comment 17, posted at 27.01.14 12:51:08 by SheldonK Reply

    SheldonKAssistant coach
     
  • I think this game was a huge success in terms of giving White a good idea on how the players involved perform under pressure and in trying conditions. Personally, I was very impressed by the performances of most players.

  • Comment 18, posted at 27.01.14 12:57:11 by vanmartin Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
    vanmartinAssistant coach
     
  • Positive game. Jake W may be able to get Cobus back to where he once was. Sat he should not have been on the field. McLeod should have had 80 mins. Perhaps JW just wanted to see what CR had in him .
    Bright futures for Tim Swiel, Heimar W, and perhaps Oosthuizen and Esterhuizen (and Fed Z)

    Big guys were solid. PSDT very good in the lineouts.

    Sarries’ tries were both soft tries. The Sharks definitely battled in the first half but both those tries against them should not have happened.

    McLeod and Jacques Botes made a big difference to intensity and speed.

    Imagine when Pat Lambie and Frans Steyn are added to the mix!

    Now I cannot wait for Super Rugby!

    What does anyone think of Jake’s idea of scrapping Super Rugby and having a South Africa / England tournament. Only two hours difference in time – making travelling a pleasure!

  • Comment 19, posted at 27.01.14 12:57:22 by [email protected] Reply

    DenCurrie Cup player
     
  • @[email protected] (Comment 16) : The North/South games involving SA & Eng teams works in terms of travel logistics but not much else. Playing seasons and international comps do not run concurrently hence problem. Also Eng teams wud not get the same financial benefit as SA teams would due to the exchange rate. So for now it will be more once off games although the idea is good.

  • Comment 20, posted at 27.01.14 12:58:33 by SheldonK Reply

    SheldonKAssistant coach
     
  • @robdylan (Comment 11) : I must confess, I was one of those overly-excitable fans when Mvovo got injured. I know it’s a risk wherever and whomever you play, but it looked like we’d traveled all that way for a deflating loss, an indictment of our discipline under the new skipper and injuries…

    They turned it around though, despite the loss. Terrific news that Lwazi is ok.

  • Comment 21, posted at 27.01.14 22:54:08 by MerckZ Reply

    MerckZSuper Rugby player
     
  • @Pokkel (Comment 5) : Why have Esterhuizen as an understudy to Frans……he needs to play outside Frans at 13…….forget about little Jordaan

  • Comment 22, posted at 28.01.14 00:41:20 by Saffex Reply

    SaffexCurrie Cup player
     
  • @Saffex (Comment 22) : They can all just shift 1 over when Lambie and Steyn come in. So McCloed,Lambie,Steyn,Esterhuizen,Jordaan,Movovo,Fisher…done

  • Comment 23, posted at 28.01.14 07:24:05 by SheldonK Reply

    SheldonKAssistant coach
     

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