Sharks excite Plumtree with ‘spirirt of adventure’ against Edinburgh in Durban

WERNER Kok of the Sharks celebrates with Aphelele Fassi after Fassi’s try against Edinburgh at Kings Park yesterday. | Steve Haag Sports

WERNER Kok of the Sharks celebrates with Aphelele Fassi after Fassi’s try against Edinburgh at Kings Park yesterday. | Steve Haag Sports

Published Mar 30, 2024


THE Sharks’ climb up the United Rugby Championship (URC) ladder continued at Hollywoodbets Kings Park yesterday with a 23-13 defeat of Edinburgh, and while they have left too much too late to make the play-offs, there is evidence that rejuvenation is underway.

The Sharks could well go all the way in next month’s Challenge Cup, but only if they can add finesse in their finishing to their appetite for destruction.

That should come as confidence grows and over-eagerness wanes, and the encouraging aspect for coach John Plumtree is that his team is showing the spirit of adventure he called for when he re-took the reins late last year.

They are carving open opportunities almost at ease and the willingness to attack was personified by Player of the Match Aphelele Fassi. ‘The weekend Special’ has been dormant for some time but at last we had Fassi on Fire.

He came to the Sharks straight out of school after starring for Dale College at the Kearsney Easter Rugby Festival but has had his ups and downs since. He is 26 now and it is two years since he had a bite at the Springbok cherry only to fall by the wayside.

Hopefully this powerful performance has kick-started a comeback.

Fassi’s try 20 minutes into a frustrating opening quarter for his team was a belter. He fielded a clearance near the touchline about 40 metres out and ran straight through the defence before finishing sweetly by rounding the fullback.

Duhan van der Merwe would have applauded had he not been in the opposition.

The score at half-time was 7-3 to the Sharks but it should have been substantially more. They mishandled 12 times and twice ball carriers were held up over the line.

“We’re getting there,” said Plumtree before adding with a smile: “I would not say we are a Ferrari yet, maybe a nice Mercedes (a reference to former Sharks captain John Smit’s chirp midweek that the Sharks were a broken Ferrari).

“There was some frustration that we did not put the game away much sooner than we did, but I feel we have something to work with and we are only going to get better.

“I thought Fassi was outstanding,” the coach continued.

“It is not just his athleticism on attack but he also has a lethal left boot and his 5/22 in the second half was beautiful.”

Plumtree revealed that a tummy bug had run through the squad last week. It was the reason Springbok prop Vincent Koch did not start as planned and Plumtree said he had to make full use of his bench because players had taken the field weakened.

“We had only one player on the bench at the end. I’m proud of how the guys stuck it out after we had been sick last week.”

The last time Edinburgh played in Durban there was a mini monsoon and the Scottish side gave the home team a lesson in wet weather rugby. Sean Everitt was the Sharks’ coach and the shock loss started the pressure on his job.

Yesterday he brought to the Shark Tank a strong Edinburgh team that had a host of players who lost to the Springboks in a World Cup pool game.

The Sharks were equally well represented with veterans of that win for the Boks in Marseille and they played a big role in leading the way to victory, as they did in Marseilles last September.

There were big games by Bongi Mbonambi, Eben Etzebeth, Ox Nche and Lukhanyo Am, who scored a lovely try in the second half thanks to a strong run and neat offload by Fassi.

The Sharks’ third try was also a beauty and this one went to an up-and-comer in Phepshi Buthelezi, who did superbly to wriggle over in the corner.


Sharks — Tries: Aphelele Fassi, Lukhanyo Am, Phepsi Buthelezi. Conversion: Siya Masuku. Penalties: Masuku (2)

Edinburgh — Try: Boan Venter. Conversion: Ben Healy. Penalties: Ben Healy (2)