The Sharks kept their hopes of winning the Rainbow Cup SA conference alive thanks to an important, bonus point victory over the Lions at Ellis Park.
JOHANNESBURG – The Sharks controlled the possession and the territory in their Rainbow Cup clash at Emirates Airline Park on a chilly Saturday afternoon to grind out an important, bonus point victory which keeps their hopes of winning the conference alive.
In a match that saw eight tries scored between the two sides, it was the Sharks that managed and controlled the encounter with much more conviction, and their 33-21 victory leap-frogs them into second on the standings with 16 points, four behind the table-topping Bulls.
The triumph ensures that their fate is firmly in their hands with the clash against the Bulls at Kings Park next weekend a mouthwatering prospect, which will decide the champions.
But, this win was not an easy one, and the Durbanites had to work hard to secure it.
Brilliant defence by the visitors in the first 10 minutes denied the Lions, who were enjoying all the possession, even stifling the Joburgers’ much vaunted scrum. André Warner finally got the reward for the Lions in the 11th minute with a quick tap to dive over the line. The Sharks, however, struck back immediately through a well-organised maul, joined in by the backs, to crash over the whitewash, with Manie Libbok converting the try by hooker Kerron van Vuuren to level the scores.
With that converted try there was a change in the momentum of the encounter, the Sharks camping out in the Lions half for the majority of the half.
The Lions, now under enormous pressure, however, managed to hold out just enough to halt the Sharks crossing the try-line for a second time in the 23rd minute.
The Sharks looked certain for another five points during this period, but an important turnover by PJ Botha meters from their line, staid off that particular period of attack. The Sharks continued to dominate the play, even strong-arming themselves over the tryline twice, only for the ball to be held-up.
Van Vuuren finally converted their possession into points with his brace, the Sharks pack once again mauling to score the five-pointer in the 31st minute. The Lions, meanwhile, didn’t help themselves during the first half, losing their throw-ins at the line-out, and certainly not doing enough to protect the breakdown, or working to hold onto possession.
A brilliant break by the Sharks seemingly closed out the first 40, with Pep Buthelezi finishing off the counter-attack but a workman-like shift by the Lions’ forwards deep into extra-time closed the gap to five points with an important, converted try.
It was all the Sharks in the first 10 minutes of the second half, Springbok wing Makazole Mampimpi opening their account by dancing through the Lions defence to dot down behind the whitewash. Botha, struggling with his line-out work then redeemed himself, by scoring off a Lions maul in the 56th minute, opening the match up for an exciting final quarter.
And it was Sharks fullback Anthony Volmink who finally put the final nail in the coffin in the 71st minute, scoring after a brilliant dink from Boeta Chamberlain behind the Lions defensive line fell favourably for the replacement flyhalf who then coolly passed to his No.15 for the run in.
The Lions had two final opportunities to close the 12-point gap, but a reckless cleanout by Willem Alberts on the 5m line resulted in a penalty to the Sharks, and then Rabz Maxwane failed to capitalise on a break, the ball knocked on with the tryline abegging.
Sharks scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse was a nuisance, the No 9 niggling at the Lions, taking quick taps, and keeping the opposition defence constantly guessing. Happily, Springbok Makazole Mapimpi also looked in fine form, assisting with that Buthelezi try, putting in a handful of good runs down the left wing, and working hard to find possession.
Lions (14) 21 – Try: Warner, Massyn, Botha; Conversion: Jordan Hendrikse (3)
Sharks (19) 33 – Try: Van Vuuren (2), Buthelezi, Mampimpi, Volmink; Conversion: Libbok (3), Chamberlain