DURBAN – The Sharks have elated and disappointed in equal measure this season, but even their most diehard fans will find their performance in a 40-10 defeat to the Bulls on Saturday night deflating in the extreme, mostly because nobody saw it coming.
It was critical for the Sharks to build on their recent form in New Zealand in the first of two home derbies before their bye, but they ran into a Bulls side that played with energy and hunger, not to mention skill in abundance at Kings Park.
The Sharks were outplayed in every department. It is as simple as that, and the Bulls will return to Pretoria primed to storm up the table of the SA Conference.
For the Sharks, it is back to the drawing board ahead of next Saturday’s visit from the Stormers.
Turning matters around in seven days is going to be a heck of a mental challenge for the Sharks after this rubbish.
They lost by 30 points at home. That is embarrassing.
From a national point of view, Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus would have been pleased with the individual performances of some of the Bulls players, notably fullback Warwick Gelant, who has surely played his way into the Bok No 15 jersey after scoring three immaculate tries.
The Sharks’ best moment of the game was the three points kicked by Robert du Preez in the second minute to give them the lead. It was downhill after that.
The Bulls responded in spectacular fashion. They took the ball through the phases to the Sharks’ danger zone, where Handré Pollard produced a magical chip over the defence for fullback Gelant to catch and score.
Pollard’s conversion made it 7-3.
The visitors were just getting started, and in the eighth minute, Gelant scored a fine solo try when he nudged a grubber through the defence into the 22 and gathered and scored.
The Bulls’ tactic of putting the ball behind the Sharks’ last line of defence was certainly paying off.
Surprisingly, as the game crept into the second quarter, the Sharks abandoned their tour policy of taking points on offer and twice kicked to the corner, with no profit.
They then reverted to what worked in New Zealand when Du Preez took a shot at goal but missed, to the disbelief of Sharks fans who had seen him successfully kick 20 out of his last 20 attempts at goal.
If ever there was an omen that the Sharks were going to get a hiding, it was that end to Du Preez’s golden run.
The Bulls promptly added to that disappointment when they kicked a penalty to the corner, and the vastly experienced Adriaan Strauss controlled the maul towards the line for the try and a 21-3 lead.
The Sharks’ vague hopes of fighting their way back into a winning position were given a timeous boost three minutes from halftime when André Esterhuizen muscled over following a lineout drive.
The whistle for the second half was greeted by an almost simultaneous break-out of heavy rain, and it proved more of a dampener for the Sharks than the Bulls, who proceeded to score seven minutes into the half when a siege on the Sharks’ line resulted in a penalty try.
The double whammy was that tighthead prop Thomas du Toit was carded for a professional foul. At 28-10 with just over half an hour to play, the Bulls were over the hill and far away.
It remained for Gelant to complete his hat trick, and wing Johnny Kotze to complete the humiliation.
Sharks 10 – Try: André Esterhuizen. Conversion: Robert du Preez (1). Penalty: Du Preez (1).
Bulls 40 – Tries: Warrick Gelant (3), Adriaan Strauss, Penalty Try, Johnny Kotze. Conversions: Handré Pollard (3), Manie Libbok (1).