Full house at Loftus for Hernández

Date published: September 12 2009

A 24-point haul from Juan Martín Hernández sent the Sharks back to Currie Cup summit as they claimed 29-23 victory over the Blue Bulls.

A 24-point haul from Juan Martín Hernández sent the Sharks back to Currie Cup summit as they claimed 29-23 victory over the Blue Bulls.

The Argentine playmaker was at his mercurial best for his short-term charges at Loftus Versfeld and his virtuoso second-half try, conversions, penalties and two drop-goals proved vital in stemming the hosts' late onslaught.

Behind at the break, it was in fact a stirring second-half performance that saw the Sharks edge past their rivals in an exciting contest.

It was the Blue Bulls' third defeat in as many outings however, and they now cling precariously to fifth place in the standings after the Cheetahs' win against Western Province.

The hosts went into the break deservedly 12-6 up. In fact, with their scrummaging far superior to that of the Sharks – often on the back foot in the opening stanza – they probably deserved a bigger lead.

But that was all to change with a commanding showing by the Sharks in a 20-minute spell following the break when they virtually put the game beyond their depleted hosts.

All the first-half points came from the boot, with Hernandez slotting two penalties and opposing fly-half Burton Francis doing it four times – once from well within his own half.

Less than three minutes into the second half, however, Hernandez broke through four feeble Blue Bulls tackles to score next to the posts and put his delighted side 13-12 ahead.

The Sharks were starting to play the sort of rugby the Blue Bulls had dished up before the break, with the visitors' most dangerous weapon being veteran full-back Stefan Terblanche.

Powerful flank Jean Deysel was also prominent on the charge, but when the Blue Bulls got into Sharks' territory after ten minutes of the second period, Francis dropped at the posts.

The kick was charged down, Charl McLeod picked up and when challenged by the speed of Gerhard van Heerden on the cross cover, he fed to Jacques Botes – and not even Van Heerden's speed could prevent the flanker from going over for a converted try.

It wasn't looking good for the hosts at 20-12 down. And when Hernandez compounded matters soon after with a simple drop-goal after another Sharks foray into Blue Bulls territory, the points looked to be heading to Durban.

The home side were beginning to make errors when they had possession and the pressure they were under in their own half allowed the faultless Hernandez to slot his third penalty to further stretch the lead.

The Blue Bulls needed points, and quickly, and they got some three minutes later with a penalty from Francois Brummer. Then with some strong running from Jaco Pretorius, a great off-load and a good run by Dewald Potgieter, they were on the attack again and it ended in a try after prop Werner Kruger crossed with twelve minutes remaining.

Hernandez, so hesitant in his first outings for the Sharks, just couldn't make a mistake with his kicking though and he increased the lead to 29-23 by adding another three points.

The Blue Bulls then played some of their best rugby of the afternoon, but were halted close to the whitewash as they strived for the seven points they so desperately needed.

The scorers:

For Blue Bulls:
Tries: Kruger
Pen: Francis 4, Brummer 2

For the Sharks:
Tries: Hernández, Botes
Con: Hernández 2
Pen: Hernández 4
Drop: Hernández

Blue Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Jaco Pretorius, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 Francois Hougaard; 10 Burton Francis, 9 Heini Adams, 8 Dewald Potgieter, 7 Pedrie Wannenburg, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Derick Kuün (c), 1 Jaco Engels.
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Rossouw de Klerk, 18 Fudge Mabeta, 19 Jacques Burger, 20 Dean Greyling, 21 Francois Brummer, 22 Tiger Mangweni.

Sharks: 15 Stefan Terblanche (c), 14 Chris Jordaan, 13 Andries Strauss, 12 Riaan Swanepoel, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Juan Hernandez, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Albert van den Berg, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Patric Cilliers, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Deon Carstens.
Replacements: 16 Skipper Badenhorst, 17 Julian Redelinghuys, 18 Alistair Hargreaves, 19 Michael Rhodes, 20 Rory Kockott, 21 Monty Dumond, 22 Waylon Murray.

Referee: Jonathan Kaplan