CANBERRA – A number of unforced errors and a conservative game plan saw the Sharks succumb 24-17 to the Brumbies in their Super Rugby clash at the GIO Stadium in Canberra on Saturday.
Coach Robert du Preez implemented a style of play based on the forwards and centre Lukhanyo Am bashing it up the middle, and it backfired badly on the Durban side despite the Brumbies conceding two yellow cards.
The Brumbies are a tenacious bunch, and after absorbing early pressure from the Sharks, they slowly got the scoreboard ticking over.
Flyhalf Wharenui Hawera slotted an early penalty, but in the 18th minute, the Brumbies took full advantage of a narrow Sharks defensive alignment to find wing Lausii Tauliauli, who ran in untouched.
Following the late withdrawal of Tendai Mtawarira to a groin injury, the Sharks were under pressure in the scrums, while Akker van der Merwe also battled to find his lineout jumpers on the attack.
Two excellent opportunities around the Brumbies 22 were lost as a result, while the ploy to use Am as a battering ram didn’t work either.
Even when Brumbies flank Lachlan McCaffrey was yellow-carded for not staying on his feet at a ruck in the 36th minute, the Sharks were unable to capitalise, with only a Robert du Preez penalty to show for their efforts to trail 10-3 at halftime.
The Brumbies came out firing in the second half, and it was McCaffrey who made up for his earlier blunder by delivering the decisive offload that resulted in a try to wing Henry Speight, who held off Curwin Bosch to score.
The Durbanites also lost big centre André Esterhuizen to an ankle injury at the time but were given some relief when Brumbies prop Allan Ala’alatoa was given a yellow card for coming in at the side of yet another lineout drive.
The Sharks’ one-man advantage paid off when prop Thomas du Toit placed the ball on the line a few minutes later, and it was anyone’s game at 15-10.
But ill-discipline cost the visitors in the last quarter, with Hawera kicking three penalties within 10 minutes to stretch the lead to 24-10 and take the game out of reach.
The Sharks threw caution to the wind in the closing stages, and Bosch managed to score a consolation try, but the change in tactics came too late from coach Du Preez.
Brumbies 24 (10): Tries: Lausii Tauliauli, Henry Speight. Conversion: Wharenui Hawera (1). Penalties: Hawera (4)
Sharks 17 (3): Tries: Thomas du Toit, Curwin Bosch. Conversions: Robert du Preez (2). Penalty: Du Preez
African News Agency