Table-topping Sharks sink their teeth into Stormers in steamy Durban
DURBAN – It did not turn out to be the cracker of a game that both coaches had predicted - the steamy conditions made sure of that - but this was an absorbing contest all the same, one that the Sharks nearly butchered and the Stormers nearly stole.
It has become a well-worn narrative in matches between these sides that the favourites flounder and the written-off team prospers, and that was so nearly the case once more, with the Stormers taking the lead for the first time as the game hit the three-quarter mark (14-13) before the Sharks moved up a gear and roared home via superbly taken penalties by Curwin Bosch and, inevitably, a try by the lethal Makazole Mapimpi.
With the competition being suspended after this round because of coronavirus fears, and so much uncertainty as to whether it will continue at a later stage, there will be considerable comfort for the Sharks to at least be on top not only of the SA Conference but also the overall standings at the cessation, seven rounds having been played.
The Sharks enjoyed most of the game, and certainly the territory, but sloppy handling let them down - mostly because of the scorching conditions but also because they forced too many 50-50 passes, and at times attacked injudiciously.
There had been a dramatic start to a game when from the very first kick-off, Stormers flank Johan du Toit thundered into Louis Schreuder in the air, flipping the scrumhalf backwards and drilling his head into the turf, knocking him senseless. TMO Willie Vos advised red but referee AJ Jacobs bizarrely chose to limit the censure to yellow, a decision for which SANZAAR should red card Jacobs from further duty.
The upshot was that Schreuder was carted off in a neck brace and Sanela Nohamba was on the field a whole lot sooner than he expected. That meant the Sharks were deprived of the impact he makes off the bench in the second half as well as Schreuder’s excellent box kicking ability.
In return the Stormers suffered just ten minutes with a man down.
The first half points had compromised a well-taken try by Aphelele Fassi, who had been threaded through a gap by a deft Andre Esterhuizen pass, to which the Stormers immediately hit back with a break-out try by Herschel Jantjies, from deep in their half.
Curwin Bosch nailed a drop goal on the hooter and then kicked a penalty 12 minutes into the second half, but then it was the Stormers that set themselves up to burgle the spoils when replacement scrumhalf Paul de Wet scored after a break by Man of the Match Juarno Augustus.
The Sharks regained the lead thanks to an excellently-taken penalty by Bosch, from 52m out and on the angle. His team’s tails went up and the Stormers had no answer in the final 15 minutes.
Sharks: Tries: Aphelele Fassi, Makazole Mapimpi. Conversions: Curwin Bosch. Drop goal Bosch. Penalties: Bosch (3)
Stormers: Tries: Herschel Jantjies, Paul de Wet. Conversions: Damian Willemse (2)
Sharks (10) 24
Stormers (7) 14