February 22, 2015
Sharks impress in dire conditions
Springbok forward Marcell Coetzee scored two tries as the Sharks defeated the Lions 29-12 at a drenched Growthpoint KINGS PARK in Durban.
Kick-off was very nearly delayed thanks to the torrential rain that hit Durban throughout Saturday, with only the most dedicated of fans remaining in the Kings Park stands.
The natural expectation therefore was an error-strewn contest with knock-ons galore, but to credit both sides the standard of their handling and execution was better than predicted.
The Lions grew in confidence and stature as the match progressed, doing their damage off the tee through Marnitz Boshoff, but ultimately came up significantly short.
A test of tactical nous in the wet, Springbok half-backs Cobus Reinach and Pat Lambie both showed real intelligence in their decision-making, a fine example being the build-up to Odwa Ndungane's try.
With the forwards battering away unsuccessfully, Lambie drilled a perfect low kick across to the wing for the veteran to collect and slide over for his 30th Super Rugby try.
Ndungane's score after 26 minutes came following an exchange of penalties from Lambie and Marnitz Boshoff early on in an even opening quarter.
The Sharks though grew in the ascendancy, Lambie missing a penalty attempt but the home side building up the pressure continuously inside the Lions' 22, before Lambie's assist for Ndungane.
Building on their momentum, new signing Renaldo Bothma carried hard to win the Sharks a five-metre scrum right by the Lions posts. The home side were fully in control, a far cry from last week's problems against the Cheetahs, with Reinach darting off the base and just about touching the line as he stretched out, with the score confirmed by the TMO.
Boshoff's penalty immediately after handed the Lions some sorely needed stability but they were trailing 15-6 as both teams sought shelter in the changing room at half-time.
That composure both sides showed in the first half disappeared for the moment in a scrappy opening to the second 40 minutes, with Tera Mtembu conceding a needless offence during a Lions maul which Ruan Combrinck could only turn into a penalty that came off the post.
A third penalty from Boshoff closed the gap, with Lambie missing a simple enough chance for three more points after the Sharks scrum generated a kickable chance.
Boshoff's fourth penalty reduced the deficit even further to just three after the Sharks infringed at the breakdown near their own posts, with the Lions beginning to grow in confidence.
Bothma though provided the Sharks with some stability, a key penalty win at the breakdown setting up a five-metre lineout from which Coetzee scored the hosts' third try off the back of a powerful rolling maul.
High kicks given the conditions caused all sorts of problems in the air and one lucky bounce handed Lionel Mapoe the chance to break away upfield, with the experienced back unable to release Howard Mnisi on his inside with the Sharks defence rallying to snuff out the attack.
The majority of possession during a five-minute spell couldn't generate any more points for the Lions, with the Sharks coming close to a bonus point try only for the effort from SP Marais to be ruled out for a small knock-on after Lambie's high kick across field.
In the end the Lions finished down to 14 men, their captain Warren Whiteley sent to the bin as the Sharks forwards wore their opponents down through their driving mauls with that man Coetzee getting his second try.
Job done then for Gary Gold's troops, as they bounced back from last week's surprise defeat with an assured performance.