Sharks down Blues in Durban
Brenden Nel - SuperSport
Durban - The Sharks overcame difficult conditions and held their nerve to emerge 26-12 victors in a tough and uncompromising match at King’s Park in Durban Saturday.
With humidity and the wind playing more than a bit part in the game, handling errors abounded as both sides struggled with the conditions and reminded us why it isn’t a great idea to play rugby in the coastal city this early in the year.
Eventually it was left to the side who made the less mistakes and held their nerve in the arm-wrestle, and that side was the Sharks, who made better use of the conditions to score two tries without answer and keep their unbeaten record in the competition.
This was the seventh straight victory for the Sharks against the Blues, extending their hold over the New Zealand franchise.
With so much international quality on the field, it was hoped the game would be an open running spectacle, but because of the conditions it turned out to be a forward battle of attrition as both sides found few backline opportunities to break opposition defences.
It came down to a Blues mistake in the end, as Jacques-Louis Potgieter, on the field as a substitute, snaffled the ball one-handed to intercept Isaia Toeava’s pass out wide and then popped it up to a flying JP Pietersen who used his pink boots well to run 60 metres to score.
The try may have been against the run of play, but it certainly settled matters just when the Blues seemed to be finding their rhythm and were looking dangerously close to snatching a victory out of the Sharks grasp.
Considering the way the Sharks started, with Lambie scoring his first points of his 21 point haul when his grubber kick on the Blues line ricocheted against Benson Stanley and back into his hands with an open line in front of him, the Blues did well to stay in the game.
Lambie converted and then started a kicking duel with Stephen Brett as teams had to settle for penalty shots instead of flowing tries in the first half.
Leading 16-9 at the break, both sides struggled to break defences and the Blues – thanks to some try-saving heroics from Jerome Kaino and Alby Matthewson – were able to stay in the game. Matthewson pulled off two showstoppers in the game – beating Lwazi Mvovo to a chip and chase, showing his pace in the process and then ripping the ball from Willem Alberts’ hands when the big flanker was over the line and set to score.
Pietersen’s knock out blow came as the score sat precariously at 19-12 with the Blues heavily on attack, and it was a blow that they never recovered from. The Sharks now head overseas while the Blues will hope for better luck – and better conditions – when they go to Coca Cola Park next week to face the Lions.