The Sharks celebrated Beast Mtawarira’s record as the most capped South African in Super Rugby with arguably the performance of the season to date by a local franchise, thumping the Lions by an incredible 42-5 at Ellis Park on Friday night.
Mixing power with precision, the Durbanites were mesmerising against opponents that simply didn’t have a clue about establishing any sort of momentum.
Curiously, this victory continued two interesting trends in this year’s tournament: teams continue to slip up at home and bye weeks continue to haunt the SA outfits, with the Lions befalling the same fate as the Bulls in looking off the pace after a rest.
Who was the star in this match?
The backline in general feasted on the Sharks’ overabundance of possession as well as the Lions’ poor first-time tackling. Curwin Bosch added a new dimension to their attack, clearly relishing a rare start, but Lukhanyo Am was simply outstanding. The Springbok centre was subtle with ball in hand and also ran a good line for his try. However, he shone in other areas too, completing all his tackle and halting the hosts’ momentum three times with steals on the ground.
Key moments and themes
- The Sharks were simply compelling in the first half. While they laid their platform through their superior bulk, it was noticeable how the Durbanites worked on the accuracy of their attack. The Lions simply had no answer to that incisiveness. So often teams that dominate possession and territory fail to make it count. There was no possibility of that in this game it seems.
- Even though their attack was special, coach Robert du Preez will also be immensely pleased that the Sharks didn’t forget about doing the basics well. The set-pieces – scrums and lineouts – functioned at 100% and they also made sure that they didn’t slip many of the mere 77 tackles they were required to make. Once the heavens opened at half-time, they also used their superior kicking game to shut the Lions out.
- Question marks will have to be asked of the Lions’ ability to deal with teams that physically overwhelm them. In the past, they overcame the brawn of their opponents through their brains and skill. Yet when confronted by teams that are smart as well as hard, they struggle badly. It didn’t help that their ball protection, when they did have the ball, was poor. They also missed 30 of their 164 tackles.
- There was no better illustration of the Lions’ haplessness than the 25 minutes starting lock Rhyno Herbst was on the field. The youngster was penalised three times within minutes for elementary indiscretions at the line-out and in the tackle, the third leading to his sin binning. Once he returned, it took two minutes for him to concede a fourth at another lineout.
Sharks – Tries: Makazole Mapimpi (2), Jacques Vermeulen, Lukhanyo Am, Thomas du Toit, Aphelele Fassi. Conversions: Curwin Bosch (2), Robert du Preez jr. Penalties: Du Preez jr, Curwin Bosch.
Lions – Try: Sylvian Mahuza.