They showed a pleasing willingness to attack with ball in hand and use the width of the field.
The Sharks scored in the second minute to take early control of the game and then waltzed into a 31-10 lead by the break to lay the platform for a second successive bonus point win. They were willing to try things which inevitably led to some mistakes, and the home side could have looked after the ball better, especially at the breakdowns, but nobody is going to quibble too much about a six tries to three victory.
Lock Etienne Oosthuizen stole the ball against the Griquas throw at the first lineout to give the Sharks turnover possession at halfway, centre Andre Esterhuizen’s clever grubber then forcing Griquas to concede a lineout inside their own 22. The other lock, Stephan Lewies, soared high to set a solid platform for an excellent driving maul, Oosthuizen getting the opening try.
Esterhuizen played with great industry throughout the game and it was his break six minutes later, flank Philip van der Walt providing great support to keep the move going, that led to wing S’bura Sithole slipping through two feeble tackles to score the second try.
Fullback Curwin Bosch converted both tries and the Sharks led 14-0 and Griquas were only on the scoreboard in the 21st minute, KZN hooker Franco Marais getting stuck on the wrong side of a ruck and allowing flyhalf Clinton Swart to open the scoring for the visitors with a penalty.
Bosch replied with a penalty of his own six minutes later, but Swart was then instrumental in Griquas’ first try, chipping over the Sharks defence and regathering the ball, before passing out quickly to scrumhalf Rudi van Rooyen, who scooted over for the try and closed the gap to 10-17 with Swart’s conversion.
Griquas were having major problems though in the scrums and lineouts and when another throw went astray inside their own 22, scrumhalf Stefan Ungerer put the pressure on that forced a knock-on, and Van der Walt pounced, feeding eighthman Tera Mtembu, who produced a lovely step and perfectly-timed pass for Esterhuizen to burst through and score a well-deserved try and put the Sharks 24-10 up with Bosch’s conversion.
The Sharks were able to build a commanding 31-10 lead by the break as Ungerer swivelled his way over for a try on the hooter after another strong run by Esterhuizen. Replacement hooker AJ le Roux had been yellow-carded moments earlier for sprawling his way up the side of the rolling maul and the team from the Karoo flats of the Northern Cape, playing their first game of the competition after their opening fixture was postponed due to the shambles surrounding the EP Kings, were not having a good time in the Premier Division in the big city.
However, they lifted themselves in the second half and dominated the early exchanges. They spent several minutes bashing away at the Sharks tryline from close range, but sturdy defence and the ability of the Sharks scrum to relieve the pressure saw them repelled.
Griquas did get the first try of the second half, however, when their backline went wide from the halfway line and lovely hands by the outside backs gave wing Alshaun Bock space. He cut inside and showed amazing pace as he knifed through the Sharks defence to score a superb try.
But it was the Sharks who showed the greater overall attacking skills and a patient build-up by them saw the Griquas defence become too narrow; good hands down the backline allowing Mtembu to trot over out wide for the try.
The angle of the conversion meant Bosch missed his first kick at goal and Griquas scored next to cut the deficit to 24-36 in the 63rd minute. Outside centre JW Jonker did not get much exposure, but when he did find some space he chipped and regathered, beating Esterhuizen to the ball and sliding over the line for a try confirmed on TV replay.
But loosehead prop Dale Chadwick, who gave an excellent all-round display to celebrate his 50th Currie Cup match in style, then won a scrum penalty which Bosch kicked to stretch the Sharks’ lead to more than two scores (39-24).
The Sharks would also score the last try as replacement flank Jean Deysel went on the charge to earn a five-metre scrum, which produced such a massive shove that all Deysel had to do to score the try was pick the ball up and put it down again.
The man of the match award went to Van der Walt, who showed tremendous work rate to be in the thick of just about all the action.
Sharks: Tries – Etienne Oosthuizen, S’bura Sithole, Andre Esterhuizen, Stefan Ungerer, Tera Mtembu, Jean Deysel. Conversions – Curwin Bosch (5). Penalties – Bosch (2).
Griquas: Tries – Rudi van Rooyen, Alshuan Bock, JW Jonker. Conversions – Clinton Swart (3).Penalty – Swart.