Super 14 Rugby

Sharks wait until late to put it together


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The Sharks, who waited until the last 40 minutes of the Super 14 competition to show what they’re capable of on Saturday sounded a warning to the other three sides in the semifinal with a wonderful display of running rugby.

The Sharks were awesome at home in their total 47-25 demolition of the Chiefs, scoring seven tries after a season of in which tries were at a premium.

It’s difficult to select real stars from this match of pulsating movement, but Ryan Kankowski, Stefan Terblanch, Bismarck du Plessis and replacement Jean Deysel were outstandingly good.

But what about Rory Kockott? And Odwa Ndungane? And AJ Venter? The Chiefs tried for a while, and then gave up hope in a match that showed what a great game rugby can be.

On this form the Sharks must have a real chance to make the final – even if Saturday’s semifinal is in Sydney against the Waratahs.

** And it’s hard lines to the Stormers who missed out on the semifinals by a single log point. The thrilling encounter at Ellis Park, where the Stormers were under the cosh before an unexpectedly big crowd who were dumbfounded by the grit and class of the Lions, also produced some great rugby interspersed with mediocrity.

The Stormers scored two tries in the last four minutes for a total of three, but it was too little too late as they needed four to advance to the semifinals. They are now left to rue their slow start to the season.

The Stormers won 22-13, but will concede that they were not that much better than the Lions, who all but controlled the second half. Jean de Villiers was back to his best, and for the Lions, Earl Rose improved on his performance of the previous week after some very average performances indeed.

He was brilliant on attack. Up front, Joe van Niekerk was again a player of test class for the Lions for whom Heinke van der Merwe on the loosehead was impressive throughout.

** In the other match that mattered, the Waratahs were made to work hard by the Reds in Brisbane in an Australian derby. Phil Waugh’s Sydney-based side persevered and won 18-11 to clinch a home semifinal in a match where the poor kicking of their flyhalf Kurtley Beal had put them under pressure.

The Hurricanes’ loss on Friday gave the Waratahs a hope of a home semifinal, and two tries in the first half set them on the way to the play-offs after leading 12-3 at the break They seemed lethargic after their return from South Africa.

** The 2007 champions side, the Bulls, will wonder why they did not start playing decent rugby earlier in the season. They have now put together four good wins on the trot, and were mightily impressive as they trounced the Cheetahs 60-20 in Bloemfontein, scoring eight tries to two. Their second-half performance in particular, after leading only 18-17 at the break, must bring some uncertainty to the planning of Free State on the eve of their defence of the Currie Cup.

** Surprise of the weekend if not the season was the way in which the Highlanders simply took control of their match against log leaders Crusaders to eventually win 26-14. On this performance, Crusaders’s dream to give their mentor and new Wallaby coach Robbie Deans a fairytale farewell could turn into a nightmare. They face the Hurricanes in the first semifinal on Saturday.

** But then, the Hurricanes were not too impressive themselves in going down 19-17 to the Blues in Auckland, thereby squandering a chance at a home semifinal. Their inconsistency negates the quality of their players and the great side they can be – and one wonders whether two matches against two top sides will not be too much, even if they make the final.

** The Western Force showed up the tiring effects of intercontinental travelling when they beat the Brumbies, just back from South Africa. The score was 29-22 after the Brumbies were ahead 22-0 at the break but they could not add a single point from there on.

The weekend’s semifinals are:
Crusaders v Hurricanes in Christchurch, 9.35am (SA time)
Waratahs v Sharks in Sydney 12.00pm (SA time)

Sapa –

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