Only individual brilliance saved the Sharks from yet another disaster
THE Sharks’ Super Rugby tale this season has been a depressing read and it needed a couple of moments of individual brilliance to prevent the addition of another unhappy chapter at King’s Park last night.
The Sharks made heavy weather against a 14-man Rebels team but finally squeaked home by four points in an untidy contest punctuated by handling errors by both sides.
This contest was typical of so many of the Sharks’ performances this season with unforced errors, poor defence and hesitancy on attack constantly breaking their momentum and rhythm. Fortunately, on the night, S’bura Sithole, Lwazi Mvovo and replacement centre Heimar Williams lifted their blushes with excellent individual tries.
Certainly the Sharks should have won this game by some distance. They dominated the first half territorially, frittered away chances and only led 10-7 at the break, but then played 15 men against 14 after the break. But it remained a struggle and they finally had to hold on for their win.
Of course, there are excuses. Their team, already well below strength, was disrupted by the late withdrawal of Springbok loose forwards Willem Alberts and Ryan Kankowski, and injured prop Beast Mtawarira left the field after the first quarter. But their confidence is so low that much of their rugby is played at half-pace and basic error is commonplace.
Worryingly, their defence was again exposed with Rebels number eight Scott Higginbotham enjoying himself hugely as he ran through the Sharks to score two tries and then made the third with an attack launched from his own quarter.
The Rebels will also be miffed that their prop Laurie Weeks was red-carded for a flurry of punches while the Sharks’ Jannie du Plessis, who appeared to spark the brawl with a slap, escaped with a yellow. Indeed one of the more popular substitutions of the night came when a rattled Du Plessis, who was on the edge of receiving a second yellow card (and an automatic red), was replaced for the last quarter.
It was by no means a convincing win but there will be relief in the Sharks camp after their equally unimpressive victory against the Reds a week back.
As captain Marco Wentzel, with a smile, remarked after the game, the Sharks, with two from two, are on a winning streak.
The way they are playing, they will take anything