Unbeaten Sharks continue to mix the sublime with the silly
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DURBAN - The Sharks were ultimately commanding 34-26 victors over the Lions in this Rainbow Cup SA match at Jonsson Kings Park but they continue to frustrate their supporters by mixing up periods of impressive play with lapses in concentration and discipline implosions.
As was the case when they beat the Stormers in the first round, the Sharks scored some blistering tries when they kept the ball through the phases and allowed their lethal attackers to exhibit their skills, but then they would go missing in action and allow the opposition into the game.
And when you are playing the Lions, a team that famously never goes away, that is dangerous. The Sharks are brimming with potential and talent but if they want to dominate rugby they need to add some polish to their performances.
They started the match looking like they would run away with it, rattling up assured team tries via Jeremy Ward, Grant Williams and Thomas du Toit, but then in a 20-minute period that straddled half time they went to pieces, in particular forgetting the rule book.
Just before the break, they had let in Lions scrumhalf Andre Warner for a try, and then a procession of penalties saw two players, Du Toit and hooker Fez Mabtha, yellow-carded within seconds of each other, meaning the Sharks played with 13 men for about nine minutes.
Remarkably, the Sharks managed to keep the Lions at bay during that period, despite the long siege on their line that was only relieved when replacement scrumhalf Jaden Henrikse did some neat work around the blind side of a set scrum near his line and scampered upfield with the ball.
The Lions promptly conceded a penalty and Curwin Bosch stepped up to kick the three points. That was a massive psychological moment — Lions heads went down because they had not cashed in on their numerical advantage and the Sharks’ tails went back up.
The Lions did score next, a good effort by No 8 Franke Horn but this was immediately cancelled out by Kerron van Vuuren scoring a try off the back of a maul, something that has become customary for the hooker.
There was consolation for the Lions when they scored their fourth try as the hooter sounded, a maul try by flank Vincent Tshituka, securing them a bonus point.
The winless Lions this week host the Stormers while the Sharks travel to the Bulls, and they will know that they have to step up their act if they are to remain unbeaten.
Sharks: Tries: Jeremy Ward, Grant Williams, Thomas du Toit, Kerron van Vuuren. Conversions: Curwin Bosch (4). Penalties: Bosch (2).
Lions: Tries: PJ Botha, Andre Warner, Franke Horn, Vincent Tshituka. Conversions: Fred Zeilinga (3)