Vodacom Super 14

Sharks overcome Lions

2010-04-17 19:40
Ruan Pienaar (Gallo)
Brenden Nel

Johannesburg - There was a massive groan of disappointment over Coca Cola Park on Saturday night as the Sharks defence held out to stop the Auto and General Lions from recording their first win of the Super 14 tournament.

The visitors scored four tries to take maximum points for the fixture but were tested right to the end as they held out for a 32-28 victory in front of a desperate crowd.

It's hard not to feel disappointed for the Lions, who were down and out in the game and fought their way right back into contention, almost stealing the victory in the last quarter.

But it was not to be, and while they will go down with a bonus point for finishing within seven, they are still rock bottom in the Super 14 with nine losses in as many games.

The Sharks will point to a series of lost opportunities where Stefan Terblanche, Tendai Mtawarira and JP Pietersen all surged up to or over the tryline without reward and could have won this won a lot easier than they did in the end.

But give the Lions their due, as they fought back to within four points and camped in the Sharks half for the last few minutes in search of the winning points. If there were points given for desperation and character, Dick Muir's band of merry Lions would have a few billion of these.

Super 14 is however a game where precision is rewarded and on attack and in defence the Sharks were sharper and more polished in all facets and deserved the victory.

On one occasion in the last 10 minutes they defended their line for 14 phases and looking tired and depleted, picked themselves up and defended again for another seven phases to secure the victory.

Both sides produced big performances, most notably Michael Killian, Wikus van Heerden and Franco van der Merwe for the Lions and Jean Deysel, Ruan Pienaar, Riaan Swanepoel and Bismarck du Plessis for the Sharks.

But before the fightback could begin, the Sharks looked set for a big victory after scoring early against some non-existant defence from the Lions.

The home team tried to surprise by switching Carlos Spencer to fullback and Killian to wing, dropping Tonderai Chavhanga from the original team list shortly before kickoff in a typical Dick Muir ploy.

But while Herkie Kruger opened the scoring with a penalty, it was the Sharks who crossed the tryline first as on their first foray into the Lions half they hit it up the middle twice before spreading it wide for Patrick Lambie to waltz over with another man outside him.

Kruger added another penalty for the Lions before the Sharks tried the same ploy in their next visit to the Lions 22, taking it up twice again before spreading it wide, this time with Odwa Ndungane finding the open space to score.

Seven minutes later it was the forwards chance to add their bit to the scoresheet as the punch up the middle almost sent John Smit over, but the captain fell short, popping it up for Bismarck du Plessis to crash over from close range.

At 19-6 down, the Lions looked set to repeat some of their sorrowful performances of the competition, but found the perfect elixir as Kruger took a ball in broken play, and went inside to send Killian through the gap and to the tryline to score.

The Lions looked rejuvenated, and two minutes later they added another as Franco van der Merwe did a one-two pass with Killian, who returned the favour after drawing the defence to send the big lock crashing over in the corner.

This brought the Lions to within a point of the Sharks, although Ruan Pienaar extended the lead to four just before half time with a penalty.

Early in the second half the Sharks found space, this time on the left wing, as they created the overlap with Jacques Botes running in for the try.

The Lions started to find their feet again, and were much more competitive at the breakdown and in defence, which seemed to have been sorted out at the break.

First Kruger pulled them back a bit more with a penalty before a magnificent tackle by Wandile Mjekevu stopped Terblanche in the corner and immediately lifted the team some more.

While Ruan Pienaar extended the lead on the hour, a Lions counter attack shortly afterwards paid dividends as the ball went wide to Killian, who drew the defender and sent Derick Minnie sprinting on the touchline for the Lions third try.

From then on the sides sparred as the game opened up and became very entertaining. But while the Lions had their chances, as did the Sharks, the defences held out and it was a relieved Durban side who walked off the park at the final whistle to claim an exhausting win.



15. Michael Killian, 14. Tonderai Chavhanga, 13. Marius Delport, 12. Doppies la Grange, 11. Wandile Mjekevu, 10. Herkie Kruger, 9. Jano Vermaak, 8. Todd Clever, 7. Wikus van Heerden, 6. Cobus Grobbelaar (captain), 5. Franco van der Merwe, 4. Nico Luus, 3. Gert Muller, 2. Hans van Dyk, 1. JC Janse van Rensburg

Substitutes: 16. Hannes Franklin, 17. Heinke van der Merwe, 18. Willem Stoltz, 19. Derick Minnie, 20. Chris Jonck, 21. Deon van Rensburg, 22. Carlos Spencer

15. Patrick Lambie, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Stefan Terblanche, 12. Riaan Swanepoel, 11. JP Pietersen, 10. Andy Goode, 9. Ruan Pienaar, 8. Willem Alberts, 7. Jean Deysel, 6. Jacques Botes, 5. Johann Muller, 4. Steven Sykes, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 1. John Smit (captain)

Substitutes: 16. Craig Burden, 17. Tendai Mtawarira, 18. Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19. Alistair Hargreaves, 20. Rory Kockott, 21. Andries Strauss, 22. Lwazi Mvovo


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