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Neil Powell glad Sharks’ fate still in their own hands after win over Benetton

Sharks centre Lukhanyo Am makes the pass before being tackled by Marco Zanon of Benetton Rugby during their United Rugby Championship match on Friday

Sharks centre Lukhanyo Am makes the pass before being tackled by Marco Zanon of Benetton Rugby during their United Rugby Championship match on Friday. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Published Apr 15, 2023


Cape Town — Neil Powell almost has a full head of grey hair already, but such was his frustration with the Sharks’ performance against Benetton on Friday night that he felt he gained a few more strands.

His irritation also showcased his high standards as the Durban outfit actually scored six tries in securing a 43-33 bonus-point win over the Italian club at Kings Park.

That the match also came on a Friday after having to travel from France, where they lost to Toulouse in the Champions Cup last Saturday, made matters much tougher for captain Siya Kolisi and his team.

So, to hit back from a 14-0 deficit after just eight minutes against Benetton to pull off a 10-point victory and remain in the hunt for a United Rugby Championship playoff spot speaks volumes about the character shown by the Sharks in a far-from-perfect display.

“I don’t know if happy is the right word to describe what I’m feeling, to be honest! A lot of frustration, but happy with the five points – that’s what we wanted from this game. But a lot of frustration as well,” Powell said afterwards.

“A lot more grey hairs after this game! It was a game where if we had just done our basics well and were a lot more clinical, it would have been a better game… just a lot of soft moments.

“Not a great start, 14-0 down after 10 minutes, and you’re already on the back foot. Good composure at the end of the first half to pull it back, and in the second half, it’s a game where we made it extremely difficult for ourselves.

“If we had a clinical game and did the basics well, we could’ve gone through this game a little bit easier. But unfortunately, we just made it so difficult for ourselves.

“But the goal was to get five points from this game, and we got the five points. We’ll move on from this, put this behind us and make sure we’re ready for next weekend.”

Scrumhalf Grant Williams was again the catalyst for a lot of what the Sharks did well with his speed and slick service, as well as his brace of tries, while wing Makazole Mapimpi also worked tirelessly on attack and defence to grab two touchdowns too.

But Powell will want to see an improved effort in the lineouts in next Saturday’s crunch tie against Munster at Kings Park (6.15pm kickoff).

The swirling wind did make things difficult for Bongi Mbonambi’s lineout-throwing, but they will face an even tougher test against the likes of RG Snyman and Jean Kleyn next weekend – and they won’t have lock Hyron Andrews available as he failed an HIA test after leaving the field early in the second half.

At least the Sharks dominated the scrums, and still got the crucial five log points.

“It was a short week, so it’s a difficult week, and it’s a balance that we needed to get right in terms of how much preparation do you do this week and how much time do you spend on the field, versus how much energy do you want for this game,” Powell explained.

“Flying to Toulouse, spending five nights there, flying back… the guys put all their energy into that Toulouse game, and unfortunately, we didn’t get the result.

“We came back on Monday, and then we play on Friday again, so it’s a really short turnaround. You have to weigh up time on the field and cohesion versus energy in tonight’s game.

“I think we did get the balance right, but not the cohesion and energy we were looking for. We had a good performance last weekend and wanted to build on that performance, but unfortunately not enough cohesion and synergy.

“It will be a tricky one (against Munster) as we played them three weekends ago, and now they will have learnt from that experience. But the beauty of it is that it’s in our hands, so it’s about what we want out of that game and how we are going to approach that game.

“Hopefully we can have a good week’s preparation and a better performance.”


Sharks 43 – Tries: Vincent Tshituka, Grant Williams (2), Siya Kolisi, Makazole Mapimpi (2). Conversions: Curwin Bosch (5). Penalty: Bosch (1).

Benetton 33 – Tries: Sebastian Negri, Ignacio Brex, Joachin Riera, Marcus Watson, Tomas Albornoz. Conversions: Albornoz (4).


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