Johannesburg - The Cell C Sharks came unstuck in their 23-15 loss to a Saracens team brimming with
South African players at Allianz Park in Barnet, London on Saturday.
The coastal franchise were given a proper test in their first pre-season
match ahead of this year's Super Rugby competition.
Jake White's troops were denied possession and territory for most of the
first half with Saracens doing most of the playing.
While the Sharks did not come away with the victory, White would be pleased
with some of the youngsters that showed some maturity against a top side.
The Sharks went into the match with a young backline that showed the
potential that would come in handy when injuries take its toll midway through
White would have taken note of the performance of standout inside centre
Andre Esterhuizen, who constantly troubled Saracens' defence, while loose forward
Jean Deysel put in a mammoth display.
Deysel constantly got over the gain-line with his menacing runs with ball in
hand while he stopped the opposition in their tracks with bone crushing
White would spend some time analysing the scrums where his Springbok front
row of Beast Mtawarira, Jannie du Plessis and Bismarck had a difficult day at
The Sharks scored the first points on the board shortly after the start with
flyhalf Tim Swiel succeeding with a penalty conversion before the hosts
levelled the scores through a Charlie Hodgson three-pointer.
Saracens took the lead in the 22 minute when Hodgson made no mistake with
his kick at goal.
Five minutes later Saracens were handed double-barrelled advantage when
Sharks lock Etienne Oosthuizen was yellow carded for collapsing the maul metres
from the line.
As Oosthuizen was making his way off the artificial playing pitch, Saracens
wing David Strettle scored from a quick tap with Hodgson converting.
The Sharks suffered another blow from the restart when Springbok lock
Pieter-Steph du Toit also received his marching orders for taking the player in
Despite the disadvantage the Sharks launched an encouraging salvo on the
Saracens line reaching the 22 for the first time in the encounter.
Their efforts was to no avail as the ball was fumbled on their way to the
line and it was the hosts instead that scored on the 40 minute mark.
Hodgson intercepted a pass from Swiel meant for Paul Jordaan to score the
try which he converted to extend their lead to 17 points going into the
Shortly after the break White sent on the fresh legs with a new-look pack of
forwards having to do the donkey work.
This seemed to pay dividends as they managed to get greater gain-line
advantage, with replacement scrumhalf Charl McLeod providing the backline with
sharper service from the base.
In the 60th minute Esterhuizen was rewarded with his stellar performance
with a try that emanated from a linebreak by flank Tera Mtembu.
Five minutes later the Sharks again crossed the whitewash with replacement
back Heymar Williams doing the damage to bring them within five points of the
Hodgson, however, took the wind out of the visitors' sails as he knocked
over a penalty in the 68th minute to extend their lead to eight points as heavy
rain came down.
Tries: David Strettle, Charlie Hodgson
Conversions: Hodgson (2)
Penalties: Hodgson (3)Sharks:
Tries: Andre Esterhuizen
, Heimar Williams
Conversion: Tim Swiel
15 Chris Wyles; 14 James Short, 13 Michael Tagicakibau, 12 Marcelo Bosch, 11 David Strettle; 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Ernst Joubert 7 Jacques Burger, 6 Justin Melck, 5 Mouritz Botha, 4 Steve Borthwick (captain), 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Richard Barrington
Substitutes: 16 Scott Spurling, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Petrus Du Plessis, 19 Tom Jubb, 20 Takashi Kikutani, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Duncan Taylor, 23 Sam StanleySharks:
15. Tyler Fisher, 14. Odwa Ndungane
, 13. Paul Jordaan
, 12. Andre Esterhuizen
, 11. Lwazi Mvovo
, 10. Tim Swiel, 9. Cobus Reinach
, 8. Willem Alberts
, 7. Jean Deysel
, 6. Tera Mtembu, 5. Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4. Etienne Oosthuizen, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bismarck du Plessis (captain), 1. Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16. Kyle Cooper
, 17. Dale Chadwick
, 18. Lourens Adriaanse
, 19. Stephan Lewies
, 20. Jacques Botes, 21. Charl McLeod, 22. Heimar Williams
, 23. Jaco van Tonder