The Pumas were almost sipping another success against one of the big unions but ultimately were denied tasting victory against the Sharks in their Currie Cup match in Nelspruit on Friday evening thanks to a moment of sheer brilliance from Garth April.
April, who has had off-field disciplinary problems of his own, rescued the Sharks from another ill-disciplined display that saw them have two players yellow-carded shortly before halftime.
He slipped through a gap with four minutes remaining and managed to get a sensational offload away, out the back of the hand to replacement Rhyno Smith, who was in the midst of three defenders but managed to race away for what was the matchwinning try.
The Sharks eventually emerged victors by 27-25.
Who was the star in this match?
The likes of Thembelani Bholi, Chris Cloete, Justin van Staden, Lukhanyo Am and April did themselves no harm with excellent games, but Man of the Match should’ve been Sharks lock Ruan Botha. He was the fulcrum of their dominant tight five. He also set up the first-half try that gave the visitors a 15-8 lead with a superb run, weaving into the 22 before freeing centre Jeremy Ward. All the flyhalves who saw it could not fail to be impressed themselves by the second-rower’s skills and footwork.
Key moments and themes
- The Pumas’ challenge was spearheaded by their loose trio of Bholi, Cloete and Willie Engelbrecht. Cloete harried and hassled the Sharks at the breakdown, but it was Bholi who was outstanding in his all-round game.
- Curwin Bosch started at flyhalf for the Sharks but, although he provided some nice touches, he was not really the brains behind their operation. Too many of his attempts at clever kicks were charged down and, in fact, the Sharks lacked a general in the backline, until April, who had moved from fullback to replace Bosch, stepped up in the closing stages.
- The Sharks scrum was superb and they managed to earn several pressure-relieving penalties, including one when they had just seven men. Thomas du Toit is surely going to be a Springbok soon, Ross Geldenhuys is clearly a canny tighthead and Juan Schoeman is going to be a good player.
- The Sharks transformed their fortunes in the final quarter as they went back to basics and allowed their dominant tight forwards and set-pieces to dictate affairs. From 25-15 down, they put themselves back in striking range with a driving maul by replacement flank Wian Vosloo, who certainly added energy off the bench.
Pumas: Tries – Ruwellyn Isbell, JP Lewis, Hennie Skorbinski. Conversions – Kobus Marais (2). Penalties – Marais (2).
Sharks: Tries – S’bu Nkosi, Jeremy Ward, Wian Vosloo, Rhyno Smith. Conversions – Curwin Bosch, Garth April. Penalty – Bosch.