Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Durban - If anyone who pitched up for the
Super Rugby derby between the Sharks and Stormers at Kings Park here had wished
to see some sort of cerebral rugby version of an art-house movie, they would
quickly have realised they’d taken a wrong turn and ended up at the
Rough, tough and utterly unyielding,
Saturday’s all-penalties encounter - for the record the home team won 12-6 -
was another of those modern, quintessentially South African slug-fests to leave
rugby romantics of old either turning in their graves or spluttering on their
Like many stadium press boxes, the Kings
Park one is smack on the halfway line and that had a special advantage - though
even that word is used with great caution - for this encounter, if only because
so astonishingly little in the way of meaningful play actually got into either
VIDEO: Sharks v Stormers, highlights
Instead derby zeal and murderous,
slow-yards physicality and commitment ruled the roost, a situation only
aggravated by the late summer warmth and mugginess which contributed to
sometimes obscene handling lapses and a tedious ping-pong of respective
high-ball launches simply because that often seemed the best way of effecting
some kind of breakthrough.
All that said, there was still a contented
smile on the face of winning coach John Plumtree afterwards, who conceded it
had been a “pressure” game in the truest sense, and certainly no enterprising
“Before this game I spoke to the boys about
just ‘inches’ ... the big thing on a night like this one. We just had to be
“We went away from our attacking theme a
little in the first half, and in the second half got a wee bit more momentum
and also some width, but the Stormers hit you so hard ... if you go away from
the plan, they can hit you; have you on the back foot.
“We battled for meterage, so the kicking
game became really important for both teams and I thought we kicked quite well
... JP (Pietersen), Lwazi (Mvovo), Pat (Lambie) kicked well so that was
pleasing to see.
“I guess the set-piece worked well enough -
we put them under a lot of pressure; in the past we haven’t been able to do
that to a Stormers lineout, for instance.
“Franco van der Merwe has been an
outstanding (acquisition) for the team, a great character. He’s Johann Muller reincarnated,
and we’ve missed Johann quite a bit in the second row so that’s fantastic.
“We also knew the scrum was an area they
would have tidied up during the week, but also one where we obviously wanted to
try and get them.
“I’d said to Jannie (du Plessis, the
Springbok tighthead who earned his 100th Super Rugby cap) that it might not be
in the first to 20th minute, but that by the 60th or 70th it could make a
“I think we won two or three penalties from
scrum-time which was really pleasing, relieving pressure or earning a couple of
“The scrum is going really well at the
moment and Etienne Fynn (Sharks scrummaging coach and former Bok front-ranker)
must take a lot of credit for that. It’s a big weapon for us.
“I think Jonathan Kaplan got it right ...
the scrum was going down with the Stormers under pressure and he didn’t have
much patience, so good on him.”
Although several forwards on each side came
to the party for limb-rattling relish and work-rate, Sharks flank Jean Deysel
was probably a deserved pick for player of the match, and you weren’t hearing
any objections from the Sharks coach.
“Jean Deysel played really well; he’s had a
tough couple of years but we’ve persevered with him and he’s shown what he can
“That knee of his is right (now), he’s lost
a bit of weight, so he’s reached the little goals I set for him and I’m pleased
for him ... he’ll be a happy man after this game.”
The Sharks lie just one point shy of the
Bulls at the top of the SA conference after the hard-earned win - the Pretoria
outfit made alarmingly heavy weather of knocking over the Force at Loftus, but
sneaked not only the victory but a four-try bonus point as well at the death.
Frans Steyn and company, however, know that
the now nought-from-two Stormers have another unenviable fixture next weekend -
at home to in-form champions the Chiefs – whilst the Bulls start their
ever-demanding, four-match overseas leg with a clash against the Blues at Eden
Chances are, then, that the Sharks will
seize control of the conference during March: they make the pretty short trek
next to Port Elizabeth for Saturday’s meeting with the novice Kings, and then
have home dates with the Brumbies and Rebels before the month ends.
Frankly, they are likely to be installed as
favourites for all three of those games, even given the constant danger of
“banana peels” in this competition.
You also get the sense from Plumtree that
his charges will be especially wary this season of botching matches they are
expected to win.
“We know if we under-estimate anyone we can
get hurt; we know that from experience. Hopefully we’ve grown up a bit in that
regard, realising our mistakes of the past.
“We’ve set a goal of winning this
conference - easy to say, harder to do it. We’ve let ourselves down in the
past; we must respect everyone we come up against. If you don’t, that’s when
you get hurt.
“We’re expecting it to be pretty patriotic
down in PE ... they’ve come off a win, the crowd will be right behind them and
they’ll have enjoyed their first experience. They’ll be looking forward to the
next one, and the next one’s us. The warning signs are there.”
Hmm, perhaps the Kings should be warned of
the extent of the threat facing them next Saturday, too ...
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