It was messy for large parts, but Rob du Preez’s hodge-podge pre-season Sharks selection made a decent fist of downing the Cheetahs in Umlazi on Friday evening, turning in a four-try second-half showing to run out 35-7 winners
The team took a while to get into their stride and the despite glimpses of what the Shark were hoping to achieve with ball in hand, the first half was largely a write-off from their perspective, with handling errors in the slippery conditions adding to disciplinary woes that hampered any real progress. Defence, for the most part, held firm, but when first Philip van der Walt (playing on the ground) and then Keegan Daniel (elbow fend) being shown yellow cards within minutes of one another, the Sharks eventually ran out of numbers to concede the first try, which went to Cheetahs centre Nico Lee.
Trailing 0-7 after half an hour, the Sharks suffered a further setback, as Daniel was taken off not long after his return to the field, with what appeared to be a serious arm injury. Replacement Jacques Vermeulen dove straight into the action, taking the ball up strongly before feeding Jean-Luc du Preez who came within metres of the line. The ball was well recycled, going out to Etienne Oosthuizen on the left, who found namesake Coenie with an audacious inside flip for the big prop to barrel over under the posts. Pat Lambie’s conversion saw the sides locked at 7-all after forty minutes.
The teams traded blows for much of the third quarter, with the Sharks gaining the upper hand through a well-finished Kobus van Wyk try. The big winger received the ball around five out and darted and spun his way through a number of tackles to notch a maiden five-pointer for his new side; Lambie again converted for a seven-point lead.
As the replacement started to filter on, the floodgates opened – perhaps an indication that the Sharks’ earlier hard work had done the necessary “softening”, or perhaps more of an indication in the superior depth available to du Preez. Jeremy Ward scored with his first touch in a Sharks jersey, taking a hard, flat pass from Cobus Reinach to run in untouched after a good lineout. Lambie’s third conversion would be his final act on the day. The fourth try was perhaps the best of the lot, with Tera Mtembu showing his skills by putting through a clever cross kick, pounced on by Reinach himself to cap a satisfactory return to rugby after nine months out. Benhard Janse van Rensburg (or “Ben 10″ to his teammates) added the conversion and did so again on full time after young lock Jean Droste had snuck over for the fifth try.
Earlier in the day, the Sharks’ reserve selection has recorded a 14-0 victory over their Cheetah opposition in a scrappy 60-minute warm-up game.
Shakrs (35): Tries Coenie Oosthuizen, Kobus van Wyk, Jeremy Ward, Cobus Reinach, Jean Droste. Conversions Pat Lambie (3), Benhard Janse van Rensburg (2)
Cheetahs (7): Try Nico Lee. Conversion Neil Marais.