The Reds won in Durban for the first time in 15 years as they beat the bumbling Sharks 21-14 in their Super Rugby match at Kings Park on Friday, with the home team looking in freefall just as they head overseas for a tough tour.
While the Sharks’ ball-retention and handling skills were indescribably poor, credit must go to the Reds side for a superb performance.
The hunger in their young pack was incredible as they dominated a way more experienced set of forwards liberally sprinkled with Springboks; simply put, the Reds pack wanted it more.
The Sharks are still in the playoff positions, although they have slipped down to sixth, but they now face having to win in Sydney, Christchurch and Hamilton in order to maintain that position.
Who was the star in this match?
Reds hooker Alex Mafi was the early inspiration for his side and was the most influential player with his marvellous display. He set up the opening try, setting the tone in the second minute as he read a lost lineout by the Sharks brilliantly. Mafi also epitomised the commitment of the Reds in terms of physicality as he carried the ball forcefully and defended with all his strength.
Key moments and themes
- The superb efforts of the Reds forwards allowed their backs an armchair ride at times and centres Samu Kerevi and Chris Feauai-Sautia were outstanding in ensuring they put the Sharks under continuous pressure and made their opposite numbers look like lumbering lummoxes. They played key roles in the Reds’ other two tries.
- With the halfbacks and inside centre Esterhuizen lacking any spark, the Sharks were hit-and-miss on attack and invariably the ball would be lost anyway due to a poor pass, a handling error or a soft carry. When the forwards tried to gain momentum by keeping it tight and using one-off carriers, their progress was checked by superb Reds defence at close quarters. Flank Liam Wright was a tremendous presence at the breakdown, also winning the crucial turnover after the final hooter with the Sharks hard on attack.
- The Sharks’ only points of the first half came in the 25th minute, when a good drive off the lineout saw hooker Kerron van Vuuren dot down for the first time in Super Rugby. The home side were fortunate to get the penalty that set up the field-position, however, as the Reds were blown up at the scrum when it was clearly the out-of-sorts Coenie Oosthuizen who had gone in on the angle. The home side’s second try came in the final minute as eighthman Dan du Preez muscled his way over the line from a five-metre scrum.
- After two dismal home defeats, the time has come for Sharks coach Robert du Preez to seriously reconsider his selection. Many of the problems stem from his son, Robert du Preez jr, currently going through a tough time at flyhalf. The problem is, the Sharks don’t have a ready-made replacement, with Bosch even more defensively fragile in the flyhalf channel, although he is settling nicely at fullback. The choice of Louis Schreuder as captain is also problematic because Cameron Wright seems to be bringing a lot more urgency in the scrumhalf position. The returns of Lukhanyo Am and Makazole Mapimpi can’t come quickly enough because they have obviously been instrumental in the good results the Sharks achieved previously.
Sharks – Tries: Kerron van Vuuren, Dan du Preez. Conversions: Robert du Preez jr, Curwin Bosch.
Reds – Tries: Bryce Hegarty, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Tate McDermott. Conversions: Hegarty (2), Hamish Stewart.