Robert du Preez and his Sharks team weren't able to get their tour going with a winning start. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix
There is no sugar-coating this one. The Sharks were shocking in their performance in Canberra on Saturday and so were the Brumbies, and a draw would have been a fairer reflection than the 24-17 victory that went to the home team.

That is about the only crumb of comfort that can be thrown the way of the Sharks after a tour opener that has suggested that it is going to be a voyage into the heart of darkness for them.

They play the resurgent Rebels this week  a maximum 15 points from 15 from their first three games  and then the Blues and the Hurricanes.

The Sharks needed to lay down a tour marker in the sand Saturday and raise the eyebrows of their competitors.

That did not happen. Not by a long margin.

What put this game into perspective was the preceding game between the Crusaders and the Highlanders, a belter of a match.

The ball-in-time statistic was not available for this game at the time of writing but you can be sure that it was in another stratosphere compared to the stop-start, halting, despairing dross that was dished up by both sides in the Australian capital.

The Sharks conceded 14 penalties alone. How many more stoppages were there for scrums and line-outs?

The game was excruciating to watch because as a spectacle it just never happened. Scrum, penalty, line-out, scrum, penalty, lineout ... ad nauseum.

In short the Sharks never played any rugby, which was disappointing because they have shown many positive signs in their preceding games that they can and want to play attacking rugby.

They did not on Saturday because their pack was outplayed. During the week the Sharks had spoken about the need to dominate the Brumbies pack, to shut them down and not let their backs play, while obviously providing sweet, clean possession for their own backs.

It did not happen. The Sharks pack was nowhere, and that is extremely concerning for the campaign ahead.

You can have seven Christian Cullens in your backline but if they don’t get the ball on the front foot, or at least in some form or another, you might as well be playing with a backline of railway sleepers.

For those who were on the golf course or at a wedding yesterday, the game more or less went like this, with the Brumbies leading 10-3 after an error-strewn first half.

The Brumbies scored first when Wharenui Hawera kicked a penalty awarded because of a scrum infringement by Sharks tighthead Thomas du Toit, who in general had a good game funnily enough, although he was later penalised in the loose resulting in a kick to the corner which culminated in wing Lausii Taliauli scoring after the ball had been sped wide following a series of forward drives.

The Sharks just could not get possession, and that was hardly helped by the five penalties they gave away in the first quarter.

They got on the board in the 30th minute when Robert du Preez nailed a penalty after Brumbies flank Lachlan McCaffrey was binned for a series of professional fouls.

The Sharks needed to score first in the second half but it was Brumbies wing Henry Speights who finished in the corner to push the score out to 15-3.

There was also the bad news of centre André Esterhuizen, who had been one of the better Sharks players, being helped off the field with a knee injury.

The Sharks enjoyed their best period of play during the middle of the second half and the try by Du Toit was well deserved.

The conversion by Du Preez narrowed the score to 15-10 but Hawera almost immediately struck a penalty to make it 18-10.

Hawera kicked a further penalty to make it 21-10, and then he effectively shut the Sharks out of the game in the 72nd minute with another penalty.

Sharks fullback Curwin Bosch showed great pace down the touchline from the halfway line to score three minutes from time, but it was no more than the proverbial consolation try for his poor-performing team.

Sunday Tribune

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