Planet Rugby

Sharks take a bite out of Lions

15th March 2008 17:02

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Frans Steyn v Lions

Running man: Frans Steyn tries to find a gap

The Sharks remained undefeated in the Super 14 after running out 16-8 winners in their South African derby against the Lions at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on Saturday.

It was a courageous effort from the Lions who fought all the way, but just lacked a bit of composure at crucial moments.

Despite only two tries being scored, one in each half, it was an entertaining to-and-fro affair that not even a Highveld thunderstorm could put a damper on.

But the Sharks will leave Johannesburg a disappointed side. They came to Ellis Park looking for, perhaps expecting, a bonus point. They might have scored one wonderfully entertaining try, but they would have hoped to score three more.

The Lions on the other hand will take heart from their efforts. Once again they were unable add to their points tally on the Super 14 table but they weren't far away from beating one of the best sides in the competition.

The locals managed to score a try in the dying moments of the match but will rue to two other wasted opportunities when they managed to cross the Sharks try-line but were unable to put the ball on the grass.

Who would have thought that it would be the Sharks who would make more tackles than their hosts? And they had to make a lot more.

To the credit of last year's defeated finalists, they tackled like the quality side they are. Perhaps even more importantly, and the Lions can learn a valuable lesson here, the Sharks missed very few of those 80 odd tackles.

Far from being outclassed like many had expected, the home side matched the Sharks in the scrums and at the break-down and were generally on a par with their visitors for most of the game.

But the Lions don't have the class players needed to make the difference at crucial moments.

Eugene Ellof would no doubt be willing to give a vital body part in exchange for a player capable of straightening the line and piercing the opposition defence.

As in every other game this year, the Lions seemed to have a brain fade every time an opportunity presented itself, clearly the mark of an inexperienced team under pressure.

The Sharks team however is packed with very classy players.

The quality of the Durban side's line-up was evident when they scored the only try of the first half. Just about every player in black and white touched the ball as they ran in an awesome five-pointer from 80 metres out.

It was a first-class display of how to off-load in the tackle, and BJ Botha rounded off a brilliant team effort.

16-3 up at half-time, the Sharks would have expected the flood gates to open in the second period. The complete opposite was true as the only points of the half came in the form of a 78th minute Lions try.

The Lions could have, should have, made it far more. Rayno Benjamin dropped a chip kick while in-goal, and only a brilliant tackle from Ryan Kankowski denied Jaco Pretorius as the Lions centre was rolled onto his back while going over.

The Sharks lacked the flair and finishing poise we've become used to. Perhaps the torrential rain that absolutely bucketed down for 60 minutes of the game had a hand in their less than brilliant display.

Their front row was also disrupted by the absence of Bismarck du Plessis who went off to receive stitches after clashing heads with Kegan Daniel and took too long to return. The hooker wasn't allowed back on, much to his dismay and that of his coach Dick Muir.

Muir was furious with the field-side officials and called the incident "disgraceful" and "unacceptable" in his post-match interview.

Du Plessis's strength was sorely missed, and even more so, his line-out throwing as he sat on the sidelines looking miserable.

Another Sharks player who might be feeling miserable is Francois Steyn. No one can deny that the young man is oozing talent, but a few unforced errors on his behalf cancelled out his positive contributions.

The Sharks will now have a weekend off to get their spark back while the Lions will host a rejuvenated Reds side at Ellis park seven days from now.

Man of the match: No doubt on this one. In the absence of Andre Pretorius and Louis Steyn, Jaco van Schalkwyk did a very good job at fly-half for the Lions, but Sharks number eight Ryan Kankowski was simply brilliant. He carried the ball with flair and that tackle on Pretorius saved his team some serious embarrassment.

Moment of the match: BJ Botha's first-half try for the Sharks was the cherry on the top of an outstanding team effort.

Villain of the match: Lions prop Ross Geldenhuys was in the sin-bin when the Sharks scored that try and his team could have used an extra defender. Otherwise no serious bust-ups to report.

The scorers:

For Lions:

Try: van der Merwe

Pen: van Schalkwyk

For Sharks:

Try: Botha

Con: Kockott

Pens: Kockott 3

Yellow cards: Ross Geldenhuys (shoulder charge)

The teams:

Lions: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Dusty Noble, 13 Jaco Pretorius, 12 Walter Venter, 11 Rayno Benjamin, 10 Jaco van Schalkwyk, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Joe van Niekerk, 7 Ernst Joubert (c), 6 Cobus Grobbelaar, 5 Gerhard Mostert, 4 Anton van Zyl, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Heinke van der Merwe.

Replacements: 16 Ethienne Reynecke, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Franco van der Merwe, 19 Willem Alberts, 20 Chris Jonck, 21 Rudi Vogt, 22 Jannie Boshoff.

Sharks: 15 Stefan Terblanche, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Bradley Barritt, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Francois Steyn, 9 Rory Kockott, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Jacques Botes, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Johann Muller (c), 4 Albert van den Berg, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.

Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Jannie du Plessis, 18 AJ Venter, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Ruan Pienaar, 21 Frederic Michalak, 22 Adrian Jacobs.

Referee: Mark Lawrence (South Africa)

Touch judges: Joey Salmans (South Africa), François Veldsman (South Africa)

Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

Assessor: Dennis Immelman (South Africa)

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