Sharks turn the heat up on Bulls


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The Sharks showed why they are one of the fancied South African teams in the Super 14 by beating two-times semi-finalists the Bulls 17-3 in the mid-summer heat in Durban on Saturday.

The Sharks outscored the Bulls by two tries to none to move to the top of the standings, with just one First Round match remaining.

Derick Hougaard was a late withdrawal from the Bulls’ side his place taken by Morn’ Steyn with JP Potgieter coming onto the bench in Steyn’s place.

It was an error-riddled match, but it had its exciting moments, more in hops dashed than in hopes realised.

Just a stone’s throw from the Indian Ocean some 40 000 ardent fans sought protection against the heat and humidity. The players were left to perform, but the conditions of weather may have had much to do with the errors they were prone to.

It was not just the clumsy men who committed errors. Skilled players like Fran’ois Steyn, Fourie du Preez, Percy Montgomery, Victor Matfield, Akona Ndungane were amongst those whose handling let them down.

There were kicks directly into touch or over the dead-ball line from players who were not normally prone to wayward booting.

There were errors of judgement as well when tries were in the offing.

In fact the litany of tries not scored when there were chances to score them were almost the most exciting facet of the play, especially early on when it seemed the Bulls had to score. In fact in that early period they had enough chances to make the game safe but fluffed one after the other – not altogether on their own for the resolute Sharks’ defence had most to do with it – but they failed to do so, flagged and instead the Sharks were the ones to score the tries – just two of them but enough to send the Bulls back over the Drakensberg with nothing to show for their grunt and sweat.

There is a litany of botched chances:
1. The Bulls turned a penalty into a five-metre line-out and Fourie du Preez made the running before passing inside to Ndungane who was at the line with nary a Shark nearby, but the right wing spilled the ball.
2. From extreme pressure the Sharks countered with Montgomery and Fran’ois Steyn prominent till they sent Ryan Kankowski running metre after metre with JP Pietersen outside of him, but the eighthman’s peripheral vision shut down, he tried a silly kick and the Bulls survived.
3. Du Preez was close after the Sharks had knocked on and he snatched up the ball. Then John Smit hauled Matfield down at the line and Johann Muller won a turnover.
4. The Bulls mauled from a line-out and Pedrie Wannenburg was close. Then Johan Roets was close.
5. JP Pietersen had a chance when a wayward kick came straight to him. The deceptive runner had one man to beat but opted to kick and kicked into a foolish touch.
6. The Bulls had a penalty near their line and alert Du Preez tapped and hoofed the ball far downfield where Bryan Habana won the race to the ball. There were just two players involved, Habana ahead of Fran’ois Steyn with the goal-line racing closer. But Steyn hauled Habana down from behind and into touch.

Those were six missed chances in the first half. One chance was taken. Under pressure Fran’ois Steyn counterattacked on the right. The ball came back left as Brad Barritt headed for the line. It came back quickly from there to Kankowski who forced his way behind a saddened and slipped the ball to Pietersen who skated round to score behind the posts. That made the score 7-0 at half-time.

When BJ Botha was penalised for illegal scrumming, Morn’ Steyn made the score 7-3. Just after that he had a sniping break but ignored Ndungane and was penalised for holding on in a tackle.

The Sharks were close when Matfield knocked on in a line-out and Bismarck du Plessis, on for John Smit, went charging to just short of the line. The Bulls survived but there was further pressure when Butch James charged down Du Preez’s clearing kick,. They scrambled the ball out but the Sharks had a five-metre line-out and tried to maul, but the Bulls stood firm and when Jacques Botes knocked on a harsh pass they hacked the ball to relief.

There had been substitutions going on for some time but a significant one was Adie Jacobs for Bitch James. Fran’ois Steyn then moved into fly-half and Jacobs went to wing. That meant that the opposing fly-halves were both Steyns, but unrelated.

The Sharks should have got a try when BJ Botha was prominent in setting up a counterattack with a long pass to his left. Suddenly Pietersen was skating free but the promising situation broke down when the Sharks could not get the ball wide to their right.

They were close again when Du Preez lost track of the ball as it emerged from a Bulls’ scrum and Pienaar toed it towards the line. From a five-metre scrum Barritt was close and the Bulls conceded a penalty which Montgomery goaled. 10-3 with ten minutes to play.

The Sharks were under pressure at a scrum in their own territory. Somehow, near the touch-line on his right, Ruan Pienaar evaded two predatory Bulls and ran downfield, playing inside to Warren Brits and then on to Keegan Daniel. The ball went wide to their left as, under pressure, Fran’ois Steyn slapped a pass on to Pietersen who raced round for his second try at the posts. Montgomery banged the conversion over. 17-3 with four minutes left.

In those four minutes the Sharks were penalised four times. On the fourth occasion Morn’ Steyn kicked the ball into touch and the final whistle went. The Bulls, it seemed, had capitulated.

Man of the Match: There were players who made significant contributions – like Butch James and BJ Botha. on the Sharks’ side and Fourie du Preez and Johan Roets on the Bulls’ side but our Man of the Match is a Bull and he did not even finish the match – Gary Botha who did all things well. He leads that man.

We do not have a villain of the match, but must JP Nel always play in such an ill-mannered way?

The scorers:

For the Sharks:
Tries: Pietersen 2
Cons: Montgomery 2
Pen: Montgomery

For the Bulls:
Pen: Steyn


Sharks: 15 Percy Montgomery, 14 Francois Steyn, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Bradley Barritt, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Butch James, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 AJ Venter, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Johann Muller, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 BJ Botha, 2 John Smit (c), 1 Deon Carstens
Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Kees Lensing, 18 Albert van den Berg, 19 Warren Britz, 20 Rory Kockott, 21 Adrian Jacobs, 22 Cedric Mkhize

Bulls: 15 Johan Roets, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JP Nel, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Derick Hougaard, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Anton Leonard, 7 Wikus van Heerden, 6 Pedrie Wannenburg, 5 Victor Matfield, (c), 4 Danie Rossouw, 3 Danie Thiart, 2 Gary Botha, 1 Wessel Roux.
Replacements: 16 Derick K”n, 17 Jaco Engels, 18 Francois van Schouwenburg, 19 Hilton Lobberts, 20 Nicholas Eyre, 21 Morn’ Steyn, 22 Marius Delport

Referee: Lyndon Bray (New Zealand)
Touch judges: Vinny Munro (New Zealand), Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Television match official: Johann Meuwesen (South Africa)

 365 Digital

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