JOHANNESBURG – Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira got the perfect gift on his record-breaking 157th Super Rugby performance at Ellis Park on Friday night: an emphatic 42-5 win by the Sharks.
The visitors produced one of their better performances in a long time as they scored six quality tries to comfortably down three-time competition runners-up the Lions, who scored their only points, a try by replacement Sylvian Mahuza, in the 78th minute.
It was a day to remember for the Sharks and Mtawarira, but one the Lions will want to forget very quickly.
The Lions were completely outplayed – and left embarrassed – and coach Swys de Bruin and Co will take no positives from the performance.
They have now, after seven matches, lost all three games played against local opposition – against the Stormers, Bulls and Sharks.
The visitors were on top form from the off, with heavy-hitters Mtawarira, Dan du Preez, Jacques Vermeulen and Andre Esterhuizen prominent as the go-to men and ball-carriers in wet and trying conditions.
And with Curwin Bosch adding X-factor from fullback, the Lions were on the back foot for the majority of the opening exchanges, and it pretty much stayed that way for most of the encounter.
The problems started early on for the Lions.
They were pinned in their own half by some strong Sharks play and home-town lock Rhyno Herbst found himself in the bin as early as the 10th minute for giving away numerous penalties.
The Lions managed to just hang on under the immense pressure applied, but the wall would eventually break in the 20th minute when Vermeulen finished off a top attack where several players contributed.
Three minutes later, wing Makazole Mapimpi, who must be one of the country’s deadliest finishers, went over for the first of his two tries; the Sharks running out from their own half, with Bosch making the initial break.
Two tries for the Sharks became three when Lukhanyo Am crossed in the 28th minute following some slick running, passing and interplay between the players; the visitors going 17-0 up inside half-an-hour.
A penalty by Rob du Preez and a fourth try by the Sharks, and a second for Mapimpi, on the stroke of halftime gave the Durbanites a deserved and handy lead at the break.
The Lions had hardly tested their opponents, and hadn’t come close to putting points on the board.
Swys de Bruin’s men, up to Friday the leaders of the SA Conference, had been completely outplayed by the Sharks, who dominated the possession and territory stats in a one-sided first half, while the home team were asked to also make a staggering number of tackles, many of which were missed.
The excellent Bosch slotted a long-range penalty 10 minutes into the second half to give his side a 28-0 lead, and with seven minutes to go, the visitors killed off the Lions after replacement prop Thomas du Toit went over from close range.
But the visitors were not done; there was still time for replacement back Aphelele Fassi to cross in the 82nd minute, to ensure the Lions left their home ground with their tails between their legs.
Lions 5 – Try: Sylvian Mahuza.
Sharks 42 – Tries: Jacques Vermeulen, Makazole Mapimpi (2), Lukhanyo Am, Thomas du Toit, Aphelele Fassi. Conversions: Du Preez (1), Curwin Bosch (2). Penalties: Robert du Preez (1), Bosch (1).@jacq_west