The Sharks moved into first place on the Currie Cup log on Friday night as they beat the Pumas 28-12 in Durban for their third successive win, but apart from an eight-minute purple patch in the third quarter, they never got into their stride in a messy game.
The Sharks, thanks to a dreadful error rate, struggled to hang on to the ball in the first half and when the Pumas scored two tries in the 37th and 41st minutes, it meant the home side went into the break 7-12 down at Kings Park.
They drew level in the 51st minute through centre Johan Deysel’s try, put over by loosehead prop Juan Schoeman, and then Aphelele Fassi, who moved from fullback into the wing position in just the third minute after Lwazi Mvovo’s concussion, scored one and created the other for pacy substitute Curwin Bosch as the Sharks hit the hour mark 28-12 up.
The final quarter was marked by the same scrappy play as in the first half and it spoke volumes that the official man of the match was Stefan Ungerer, the losing scrumhalf of the Pumas.
Who was the star in this match?
While Ungerer was excellent, particularly with his contestable kicks from the base of the ruck, Sharks flyhalf Robert du Preez had a greater impact on the game. He was one of the few Sharks players who did not put a foot wrong and he directed play well while varying his tactics. Du Preez used his boot particularly well, stabbing the ball through for centre Jeremy Ward to open scoring in the 21st minute and then his neat chip over the top in the 56th minute was snapped up by Fassi for the third try. The Springbok flyhalf was also successful with all four of his kicks at goal.
Key moments and themes
- On an evening when nobody seemed to trust their hands, the Pumas were also able to use the kick-through to good effect. Their opening try, three minutes before halftime, came after flyhalf Chris Smith’s deft kick over the top was won by centre Ryan Nell, with the ball then going wide for wing Ruwellyn Isbell to score off Ungerer’s pop-pass. With the hooter having gone, Ungerer then put a good kick into space which was claimed by replacement wing Jerome Pretorius, with lock Le Roux Roets then powering his way through three defenders to score.
- Having struggled to beat the depleted Free State Cheetahs last weekend, ideally the Sharks would have wanted to produce a compelling performance at home against the team that was fifth on the log. But their lineouts were poor, their scrum inconsistent and their skill levels extremely disappointing for a side made up mostly of players with Super Rugby experience.
- Ungerer seemed to have set the Pumas on the road to victory in the first half, so it was a major surprise when coach Jimmy Stonehouse substituted him early in the second half. By the time Ungerer was brought back on in the last 10 minutes, he was no longer able to provide the direction as he had done previously against his former team.
- Although the Sharks have gone to the top of the log, they were unable to provide their die-hard supporters with any transports of delight. If the Golden Lions beat the Free State Cheetahs with a bonus point on Saturday, which is a distinct possibility at Ellis Park, then the KwaZulu-Natalians will be knocked from their lofty perch. Judging by the quality of their play on Friday night, first place would be scarcely deserved.
Sharks – Tries: Jeremy Ward, Johan Deysel, Aphelele Fassi, Curwin Bosch. Conversions: Robert du Preez (4).
Pumas – Tries: Ruwellyn Isbell, Le Roux Roets. Conversion: Chris Smith.