Durban - The stunning attacking play of the Sharks in their 47-37 URC victory over the Lions at the weekend is reminiscent of the way the same team played when they were topping Super Rugby in 2020, and it is no coincidence that they have the same players in hot form.
While the Lions were no shrinking violets themselves, the Sharks impressed with some magnificent attacking plays from turnover ball in which slick offloading and inter-passing unpicked the defence.
This is how the Sharks were playing in early 2020 before Covid-19 struck and Super Rugby was abandoned. Over the last two years, the Sharks have seldom been able to field their full-strength side but at Ellis Park, their potent backline of international stars was able to fire on all cylinders, with Makazole Mapimpi, Lukhanyo Am and Aphelele Fassi in fine form, and Sbu Nkosi and former Wallaby Ben Tapuia not far behind.
“The type of rugby you play is dependent on the players you have at your disposal,” a pleased Sean Everitt said after the match. “The likes of Mapimpi, Nkosi, Fassi, Lukhanyo... these are guys who can nail opportunities when they pop up out of nowhere, and that is what happened and it is why we won the game.
“Some of these guys are the best in the world in their positions,” the coach enthused. “Mapimpi must be the best left wing in the world. We talk about Cheslin Kolbe, and rightly so, but every time Mapimpi plays he gets over the chalk, domestically or internationally.
“Lukhanyo has been absolutely superb, he is probably the best 13 in the world,” Everitt continued. “And it is great that they perform like this for their franchise — they want to pay back to us. Sometimes you get players that perform on the international stage but don’t come to the party for their clubs or provinces.
“But our Boks are great people and we are so happy to have them at the Sharks and to see the pride they have in playing for us.”
Everitt said the six tries the Sharks scored, mostly from turnovers, were the fruits of a plan well executed.
“When (Lions coach) Cash (van Rooyen) reviews the game he will see the same thing we did. Our plan was to put pressure on the Lions defensively because we felt they would overplay in the wrong areas of the field, so if we defended strongly we would get reward from it.
“But unfortunately we were also not tidy in our attack and gave them opportunities (the Lions scored five tries of their own),” Everitt added. “If you look at when the Lions beat the Stormers, they forced 25 turnovers and won comfortably, so we were wary of that.”
The Sharks turn their attention to the Stormers this week, who will be visiting Hollywoodbets Kings Park on a high after their shock win at Loftus Versfeld.
“Our frustration in the Lions game was in our kick-offs, both sending and receiving,” Everitt said. “Both teams were not good in that area. We were never able to get away on the scoreboard because of that, so it is a big work on for us.”
The Sharks will be boosted by the return of two more Springboks in Siya Kolisi and Bongi Mbonambi, both of whom will be available for selection this week after having completed their conditioning programmes.