Sharks dig deep to secure semi-final berth

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 20 Jul 2014 at 17:50
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The Cell C Sharks relied on a strong forward showing and the goal-kicking boot of Frans Steyn to edge a plucky Highlanders outfit at Kings Park yesterday, thus setting up a Vodacom Super Rugby semi-final clash against the Crusaders in Christchurch. Each side scored three tries in a 31-27 win for the home side.

The Sharks started like a team hell bent on proving a point; with the pack on fire and the Highlanders destroyed at forward, the home side had established a 10-0 lead before the spectators had really settled into their seats; an early Frans Steyn penalty after a scrum infringement was followed by a copybook rolling maul try to Marcell Coetzee, again converted by the big flyhalf. The Sharks continued to surge forward and were twice more denied just inches from the line, the second time, referee Steve Walsh had to go upstairs to deny Jannie du Plessis a career first try at this level, with the TMO discerning a double movement in his surge over the whitewash.

Ironically, that call seemed to galvanise the visitors who despite living off scraps at set piece time, nonetheless started to play more expansively and found plenty of room behind the charging Sharks backs, thanks to deft kicks from flyhalf Lima Sopoaga. With Cobus Reinach and SP Marais both at times guilty of some aimless play within their own 22, the Sharks’ soon conceded a penalty that brought the visitors back within a score, before Steyn struck again to restore the 10-point gap minutes later. At 16-3 ahead after a bout half an hour, the Sharks would have felt that they’d not had enough reward for their up-front supremacy.

Thereafter followed a purple patch from the Highlanders that turned the contest on its head; first Malakai Fekitoa scored one of his typical “from nowhere to everywhere” tries to bring his team within three of their hosts; just before half time the Sharks failure to clear again gifted Ben Smith possession in his 22 and the 80-meter interplay that followed left the crowd breathless – and prop Kane Hames a try to the good as his team hit the lead going into the shed.

Sopoaga – who had the better of the individual flyhalf duel on the day – extended the lead to seven shortly after the break, before Bismarck du Plessis and his troops started the fightback. It was the skipper himself who scored the try that turned the tide; after the Sharks had obliterated the shaky Highlanders scrum on their own 5m line, a set of fumbles in-goal saw the big hooker dive on the ball to secure seven points, and a tied-up scoreline. Man of the match du Plessis was the hero again moments later, freeing up the ball and finding the speeding Tonderai Chavanga with a pinpoint pass not five minutes later. The Zimbabwean flier needed no second invitation and galloped 40m to score the try that put the Sharks back in front, 25-20.

Steyn’s missed conversion proved costly, though and while many may have expected the Highlanders to roll over and play dead after a 12-point blitz from the home side, it was the visitors who struck back, taking the lead through a Phil Burleigh try. The Sharks absorbed the pressure, weathered the storm and forced their way back into Highlanders territory, though, with another strong scrum forcing the penalty that put them ahead once more, 28-27 with minutes to play. Steyn struck again just before the end to seal a 4-point result, although one which was never as comfortable as you’d think it should have been, given the Sharks’ dominance in so many areas of the play.

Scores: Sharks (31): Tries Marcell Coetzee, Bismarck du Plessis, Tonderai Chavanga. Conversions Frans Steyn (2). Penalties Steyn (4).
Highlanders (27): Tries Malakai Fekitoa, Kane Hames, Phil Burleigh. Conversions Lima Sopoaga (3). Penalties Lima Sopoaga (2).


  • Winning rugby isnt always pretty… GO SAAAAAKS!!!!

  • Comment 1, posted at 20.07.14 18:57:44 by R Hayward Reply
  • Sharks made it difficult for themselves by losing their structure after the wonderful start, however they showed huge guts when it mattered the most.

  • Comment 2, posted at 20.07.14 19:16:42 by JD Reply
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  • One of the most entertaining games of the season. Congrats to the Sharks and kudos to the Highlanders.

  • Comment 3, posted at 20.07.14 20:16:43 by vanmartin Reply
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  • One of the best times ive had at the park in quite a while. What a heartstopping game. Hlanders are awesome. You have to watch live to appreciate the running lines. Breathtaking skills. So glad we made it.

  • Comment 4, posted at 20.07.14 20:23:35 by West Indies Cricket Board Reply
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  • @West Indies Cricket Board (Comment 4) : very jealous of you guys who are able to go to the tank, would have loved to be there!

  • Comment 5, posted at 20.07.14 20:57:26 by JD Reply
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  • Geez watching a re-run of the game really shows how inconsistent Steve Walsh is. He missed a couple of lineouts that were not straight, deliberate knock downs when we attacked and the tackle on McLoed by a player lying on the ground (just before Deysel knocked on at the line) but the calls which baffle me are in the facts that we demolished their scrums almost every time except when they did not slip the bind in front of Walsh. Not even a warning never mind a yellow!
    When we pushed them off the ball and they knocked it forward onto their own player before Bissie scored, he went upstairs to see if it was not a scrum for an accidental offside. When the same thing happened to Jordaan and Kanko later he immediately went for a penalty?
    My worry is that this inconsistency is rife in SR rugby refs especially if you tour to NZ…

  • Comment 6, posted at 20.07.14 23:04:30 by KILLER SHARK Reply
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  • Did anyone see the incident regarding the 2 highlander players with one of ours where it looked like a punch involved but our ref Peyper decided nothing bad happened?

  • Comment 7, posted at 21.07.14 07:30:57 by Dunx Reply

  • Looking at the game again, you have to say that in the last 25 minutes or so we produced some of the best rugby we’ve played all season. Backs and forwards were inter-linking beautifully and we took the ball through multiple phases and made stacks of meters. It also has to be said that this coincided with Charl McLeod’s best 20 minutes of rugby in a while. He was snappy and accurate at the base of the mauls and it speeded up our game tenfold. I just wish that he could repeat that sort of performance consistently…and that the Sharks could play like that for 80 minutes! If we did, there would be far fewer complaints about our game plan…and we would put most sides away most of the time! Let’s produce more of that on Saturday…

  • Comment 8, posted at 21.07.14 07:32:06 by pastorshark Reply
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  • Our front row was impressive, as was Coetzee. The backs didn’t really impress…Chavanga looked very good, though…

  • Comment 9, posted at 21.07.14 07:34:47 by pastorshark Reply
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  • Does anyone care to comment on Walsh’s decision to penalise our driving maul right on halftime? It was that penalty that Ben Smith took quickly after the hooter and that led to their second try. No one looked at it again…the commentators didn’t mention it…they didn’t look at it in studio. I thought it was an example of what you want to try to do at a mall. Maybe I just don’t understand all the intricacies of new and old laws at maul time?

  • Comment 10, posted at 21.07.14 07:40:34 by pastorshark Reply
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  • Oh, and by the way, I am really enjoying AJ Venter in the Supersport Studios. Nice to have a guy who speaks well and clearly, has real insight into the forward battle…and actually likes the Sharks… 😎

  • Comment 11, posted at 21.07.14 07:42:32 by pastorshark Reply
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  • If the Highlanders can get their scrum sorted, they could go a lot further in super rugby. I don’t think there is another team that can match them in open play. That try that Ben Smith started in their own 22 was something to behold. Patrick Osborne really impressed – he is big, strong and fast, plus he never dies with the ball – always gets it to another player when tackled.

  • Comment 12, posted at 21.07.14 07:50:01 by Bokhoring Reply
  • @pastorshark (Comment 9) : I am not yet convinced about his handling under pressure. He is bloody fast – as his try showed, but loosing the ball with a fairly open tryline when the Sharks needed a score to make the game safe was inexcusable.

  • Comment 13, posted at 21.07.14 07:54:01 by Bokhoring Reply
  • @Bokhoring (Comment 13) : Although, looking closely at the replay, it seems like Ben Smith hit the ball out of his hands/dislodged it in the tackle?

  • Comment 14, posted at 21.07.14 07:57:57 by pastorshark Reply
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  • @Bokhoring (Comment 12) : The Highlanders were super impressive with ball in hand! I’m just bummed they didn’t do that against the Crusaders last week!! Then we might have had a home semifinal on Saturday! 😯

  • Comment 15, posted at 21.07.14 08:01:50 by pastorshark Reply
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  • Without wanting to open a can of worms, I as a big Reinach fan was sorely disappointed by him. Our game did look much better when Charl came on, Lambie also seemed to add a lot of calmness into the team when he came on. Even Frans looked like he breathed easier once Lambie took the field, or is that just me? And where can I begin talking about young Thomas? The Sharks must never EVER let him go! Between him and Beast, we are sorted for the next few years, add to that Chadwick, and at loosehead we won’t have a problem.

  • Comment 16, posted at 21.07.14 08:26:40 by KingRiaan Reply

  • And now we have a bunch of Kiwis reffing our game.

    Glen Jackson will be in charge of the match between the Crusaders and Sharks in Christchurch on Saturday.The New Zealander will be assisted by Rohan Hoffmann (Australia) and Mike Fraser (New Zealand), with another Kiwi, Ben Skeen, in the TMO box.
    Meanwhile, South African Jaco Peyper will be the referee for the second semi-final between the Waratahs and Brumbies in Christchurch. Craig Joubert (South Africa) and James Leckie (Australia) are the assistant referes, with George Ayoub (Australia) the TMO.

  • Comment 17, posted at 21.07.14 08:31:06 by JarsonX Reply
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  • I must say, I thought the Sharks played really well. The only thing we need to improve for this weekend is our kicking. If we had kicked more accurately, the Highlanders would never have been in this game.

    Also, despite backing Reinach last week, I feel like Charl is just to good in these type of situations and have proven time and again that he’s at his best when we most need him to be.

    Charl and Lambie to start against the Saders.

  • Comment 18, posted at 21.07.14 08:33:59 by Letgo Reply
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  • @KingRiaan (Comment 16) : Agreed…on all fronts…

  • Comment 19, posted at 21.07.14 08:34:10 by pastorshark Reply
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  • @JarsonX (Comment 17) : What the hell? FOUR KIWIS officiating in Christchurch?! What is that all about? When Nick Mallet said the 50-50 decisions will go the way of the home team he didn’t know THAT yet…more like even the 30-70 decision will go the way of the home team now…or am I just being paranoid?! Given some of the hometown TMO decisions we’ve seen this year I can’t quite believe SANZAR have done this!!!

  • Comment 20, posted at 21.07.14 08:38:31 by pastorshark Reply
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  • @pastorshark (Comment 10) :

    It was a fair penalty – they call it changing of lanes. Teams do it a lot and don’t always get penalised, but I feel it is a fair penalty and refs should be more stern on this.

    If the whole maul turns and you push in a different direction, that’s fine, but you can’t break away from part of the maul and start a new maul in a new ‘lane’.

  • Comment 21, posted at 21.07.14 08:39:51 by Letgo Reply
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  • @Letgo (Comment 21) : Maybe that’s where my confusion stems from…I’ve seen it done all year and hardly ever penalised…

  • Comment 22, posted at 21.07.14 08:43:05 by pastorshark Reply
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  • @pastorshark (Comment 14) : I had the impression at the time he dropped the ball before the contact, but if Smith knocked it out of his hands, I will withdraw my criticism

  • Comment 23, posted at 21.07.14 08:54:45 by Bokhoring Reply
  • @KingRiaan (Comment 16) : 😆 Where is Uli Boelie, on Saturday watching the game I really thought Uli would be the first one on the site after the game!

    Yep I also feel Charl should start this week.

  • Comment 24, posted at 21.07.14 08:59:26 by Sharksmad - The Blog's Dudette Reply

    Sharksmad - The Blog's Dudette
  • @Sharksmad – The Blog’s Dudette (Comment 24) : Hahahaha I was waiting for that as well. Thought he would really be gloating

  • Comment 25, posted at 21.07.14 09:09:14 by KingRiaan Reply

  • @Sharksmad – The Blog’s Dudette (Comment 24) : @KingRiaan (Comment 25) :

    Charl hasn’t been this good all season though. When he steps up, I think we’ve all agreed that he is one of the better scrummies in SA.

    When Charl plays like this and it seems that it is the big occasions that he does (thin CC 2010/2013), he just has to start, especially when Lambie is around to start with him. These two bring out the best in each other.

  • Comment 26, posted at 21.07.14 10:21:33 by Letgo Reply
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