Sharks unearth young gems
This past weekend produced probably the best “Super Rugby” in a very long time - and it wasn’t because the Bulls and Lions had byes.
Nope, it was nailbiting stuff, high skills, continuity, collisions and high paced execution. It was in short, what we’ve been asking for. In fact, I am of the opinion that the Sharks v Reds encounter at Kings Park should rank among the best of the best we’ve seen in this competition thus far.
But that’s not all.
The cherry on top was the scintillating win by the Cheetahs in their typical never-say-die “out of time” rally after the siren had gone! This was what the doctor ordered and you could literally feel the joy and excitement when Piet van Zyl dived over that try line for the winning try. The replacements spontaneously flew off the bench in joyful rapture celebrating their “unexpected” triumph. What a way to finish what turned out to be the best weekend for South African Super Rugby sides in a very long time.
But the best game of the weekend was the one in the 'Shark Tank' in Durban.
During that first half (at least up to the 28th minute) the Reds gave an exhibition of near “perfect rugby” (if there is such a thing), reminding the Durban public why they are the defending Super Rugby champions. They displayed their trademark continuity through excellent ball carrying and ball retention skills, with ball carriers (forwards and backs) linking up from various angles, patiently breaking down the Sharks’ defence. They seemed to find holes in the Sharks’ defence at will; this could easily have resulted in at least three additional tries, but luckily for the Sharks it didn’t. With the score at 17-0 to the visitors, the writing seemed to be on the wall for the Sharks, who at that point were making regular unforced errors and looked like giving up. However, a yellow card (to Digby Ioane) spurred the men in black on and from then on we witnessed perhaps the most spectacular fight back ever at Kings Park.
I believe that Saturday’s victory was the “season-changer” for the Sharks. To turn a deficit of 17-0 around to eventually win was simply unbelievable.
Bismarck du Plessis was voted man of the match, but in my book there were at least four other players that made colossal contributions to this victory. Make no mistake, the big Eastern Free Stater was good, but Marcel Coetzee, Jandré Marais, Charl Mcleod and Meyer Bosman were just as good, if not better.
The more I see of Marcel Coetzee, the more I like him. The guy’s work rate is unrivaled and he is almost always there to make the first tackle when the opposition forwards start to run at the Sharks. Similarly, he is always on hand when the ball needs to be carried through that first few phases of the pick-and-drive or simply to pull the first and second channel defenders into the tackle. He just doesn’t get tired; and to think, he’s only 20-years-old!
And then there was Jandré Marais – what a performance by the youngster. A former SA Under-21 lock who represented South Africa at the IRB Under-21 World Cup two years ago, he was patiently biding his time for this opportunity. He grabbed it with both hands with a robust, but mature performance. He carried the ball with grit and determination when required and was uncompromising when cleaning out at the rucks. The guy has grown up and he showed John Plumtree that he is ready to claim a regular birth in the Sharks’ starting line-up.
If I was the adjudicator, he would have been my man of the match on Saturday.
Meyer Bosman (in for JP Pietersen) produced his best performance of the year while Charl Mcleod (in for Freddie Michalak) reclaimed his scrumhalf position with his best performance for the Sharks to date. He should retain his starting birth ahead of the Frenchman this coming weekend.
The Sharks could not have asked for a better confidence booster ahead of their Australasian tour. It is now up to them to use this momentum to spur them on to better things over the next four weeks.
Gary Boshoff is a former SARU player and current Afrikaans rugby commentator on SuperSport.
Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.