The Sharks got their Currie Cup campaign off on the right note as they defeated the Bulls 26-10 in Durban on Saturday afternoon for a bonus point victory. The home will probably admit that they were not at their best, but that was nothing compared to the luckless Bulls.
The Pretoria outfit, despite having the better of the possession and territory for most of the game, struggled to get the ball to stick when their opportunities came. It meant that the Sharks, who were not flawless in their execution, had plenty of counter attacking opportunities.
In the first half, it started off as a bit of a scrappy affair as the two teams looked to find their feet, but a bit unexpectedly, it was the Sharks who got into their running better than the Bulls who had a Currie Cup win under the belt from the week before against the Cheetahs.
The visitors were plagued with errors which not only stunted their chances of pressuring the home side, it also offered up good counter attacking chance for the Sharks, who took full advantage.
But, off the whistle, it was a nervy start from Curwin Bosch who kicked the first ball of the season straight into touch. It was quickly put behind the Sharks who scored first with prop Juan Schoeman wrestling the ball over the ground after some strong pressure from the whole team on the Bull’s line.
Unfortunately, the points maybe got the Sharks over eager and a couple penalties against the home side saw the Bulls in rage for a kick a poles with Manie Libbok slotting the three-pointer.
The Bulls then managed to ride their momentum and get their first try, this time through dropped Springbok and former Maritzburg College pupil, Jesse Kriel. It was again the penalties against the Sharks that got them into trouble.
The Sharks remained under huge pressure, but instead of capitulating, the home side ran in a 100 metre try of the season contender. A knock on over the Sharks line saw them counter with Louis Schreuder showing a cool head to find an on-rushing Curwin Bosch who dotted down at some pace.
Just before the end of the half, the Sharks scored their third try, and an important one to push out the lead. It came after some patient and ongoing play which led to Kobus van Wyk getting some space down the right wing where he managed to skin a few cross covering defenders to grab the try.
The Sharks headed into the sheds leading 21-10.
In the second stanza, there were again chances or both sides, and almost another 100 metre counter, this time for the Bulls, but their poor handling and unforced errors again scuppered the opportunity.
However, it was not just the Bulls shutting down their own try scoring opportunities, there were good flashes of defensive brilliance from the Sharks to keep the visitors down and out.
The Bulls did manage to get themselves over the line, but in controversial fashion. The ball was taken out by a Bulls man, but the assistant ref thought the player was already out before taking the ball. However, on closer inspection, with a replay on the big screen, it seemed not to be the case. Thus, the TMO was called into action and the Sharks earned a line out rather than conceded a try.
Then, just to rub salt into the wounds of the visitors, the Sharks turned things around and seemingly scored a try of their own as Curwin Bosch grabbed his second - or so he thought. The referee came in late again to look at an earlier contest in the air and deemed it to be a penalty against Kobus van Wyk, disallowing the score.
It didn’t matter in the end as exciting debutant Aphelele Fassi snuck onto the field to grab the ball from a mishandled catch by the Bulls, sprinting to the line to make it 26-10, finally adding the first points in the second half from both sides with 25 minutes gone.
Those were the only points of the second half as the referee cancelled out another Sharks try, and the Bulls were kept quiet by some steadfast defending, and more bumbling.
For the Sharks:
Tries: Schoeman, Bosch, Van Wyk, Fassi
Cons: R du Preez 3
For the Blue Bulls: