The Sharks got their pre-season programme off to a fine starting with a 71-8 win over the Leopards in Pietermaritzburg on Friday.
The Sharks got their pre-season programme off to a fine starting with a deserved 71-8 win over the Leopards in Pietermaritzburg on Friday.
According to the Sharks website, the hosts were simply too good, too fast and too strong for a game, but outplayed Leopards' side that tried, but could not match their Super Rugby opponents.
The Sharks were in no charitable mood and delivered a resounding display of incisive attacking rugby in front of a capacity crowd.
Quickly recycled ball resulted in a good first try to the Sharks inside the opening 10 minutes. It was well-executed and reward for some innovative play, thanks to the initial line-break from captain Frans Steyn who powered through the defence, eventually resulting in Pat Lambie selling a dummy and cruising through.
Jacques Botes added the second not much later with Tera Mtembu making the initial break that led to an easy touchdown.
It was clear that the homeside's high-intensity game and quick handling was proving dangerous and difficult to stop; building up a nice head of steam, they had three converted tries in the bag by the time the first water break came on the 20 minute mark.
We've become accustomed to pre-season matches filled with niggle, mistake and frustration, but clearly this is a Sharks side that has done a lot of preparation and there were many pleasing aspects out of their game, with the regular tries clearly the most agreeable.
The Leopards managed to get points on the board, a penalty from right in front to fly-half Johnny Welthagen, but that was all they could muster against a rampant Sharks side who added a further two penalties (and came close to a third in the final play of the half), taking a handy 31-3 lead into the half-time break.
The second half started well with Louis Ludik – amongst a raft of changes introduced – hitting the line well, feeding Odwa Ndungane who sucked in defenders and Jean Deysel managed to twist his way over and score.
Unfortunately, they weren't quite as fluid as they had been in the first half, as to be expected with numerous changes, but they managed to add a second try, captain Frans Steyn bulldozing over under the posts.
A couple of Sharks players left the field sporting bumps (which hopefully weren't serious), which didn't stop the momentum, Jacques Botes managing to power his way over for his second try and his team's eighth after three-quarters of the game.
The Sharks didn't let up the pressure and the exciting running rugby, the customary style that fans have embraced, continued to pay dividends as they eventually managed to score 11 tries in total.
For the Sharks:
Tries: Botes 2, Mvovo 2, Mtembu 2, Deysel, Steyn, Ndungane, Lambie, Dell
Con: Lambie 5, Bosman 2
For the Leopards: