PRETORIA – The Sharks ended the Blue Bulls’ unbeaten run in the Currie Cup to earn themselves a hard-fought 28-20 victory on Wednesday night.
The men from the coast were well measured in their approach to the game, feeding off the errors of the hosts and doing well to defend their line when under siege.
The Sharks capitalised on a Bulls mistake very early in the game, with wing Sbu Nkosi cantering in after his team secured a turnover within the Bulls half.
While the home side struck back 10 minutes later through a well-engineered try from the hard-running centre Burger Odendaal – who carved the Sharks defence with a perfectly timed angled run – they were quick to relinquish the lead four minutes later as Sharks hooker Franco Marais rumbled over from a rolling maul.
As hard as the Bulls tried to rein in the visitors, the more they made mistakes, and even though the Sharks did not make the best out of the manna from heaven, they did manage to go into the halftime interval with a slender 13-10 lead.
Much of the home side’s errors stemmed from their over-eagerness to get the ball through the hands, but they failed dismally at securing dominance in the set-piece and the battle for the advantage line.
Many of the Bulls’ promising forays were brought to a halt by bad decision-making and some impressive defending, especially from the Sharks pack, with Jacques Vermeulen leading the charge with his tireless toil throughout the game.
In the second half, the Sharks came out with much more intent at attacking the opposition line.
And they were duly rewarded when Lukhanyo Am ran a brilliant line to dance through the Bulls defence and dot down what seemed like an easy try.
With the Bulls clearly becoming frustrated by the lack of cohesion in their game, they were left with little choice but to bring in flyhalf Tony Jantjies to try get them points on the scoreboard.
But as soon as Jantjies’ three-pointer and a try by lock Ruben van Heerden had brought the hosts within three points of the Sharks, they cheaply surrendered their psychological advantage through some poor defending.
The Bulls would have been left kicking themselves for their lack of alertness, as Garth April galloped in for the visitors’ fourth try after receiving a well-timed inside pass from replacement flyhalf Benhard Janse van Rensburg.
That extended the Sharks lead by eight points, just three minutes after the Bulls had brought themselves into the reckoning.
The Bulls could have snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in the last seven minutes of the game, but their lack of composure and desperation saw them forego an easy three points in front of the poles for a quick tap that was once again extinguished by the organised and composed Sharks defence.
The win for the Sharks saw them catapult themselves above the Bulls into second place and record their third successive victory, after losing their opening game of the season to the Free State Cheetahs.
The Bulls will need to quickly get their house in order after sinking to their first defeat of the season as they face a tough away assignment against Western Province in Cape Town on Saturday.
Blue Bulls 20 – Tries: Burger Odendaal, Ruben van Heerden. Conversions: Tony Jantjies (2). Penalties: Jantjies (2).
Sharks 28 – Tries: Sbu Nkosi, Franco Marais, Lukhanyo Am, Garth April. Conversion: Garth April (1). Penalties: April (2).