Nobody wins in Kings Park card games
SUPER RUGBY REPORT: The Sharks and Rebels played to a 9-all draw in what must rank as the most dour match of the season.
In fact it is fitting that nobody won in this tryless snorefest, in Durban on Saturday.
The game produced five cards - three yellow cards to the Rebels and two red cards, one to each team.
To suggest the Sharks' discipline was shocking is a gross understatement.
They are fortunate they did not concede more than just one red card.
And the Rebels were not far behind.
However, their penalties had a slightly less nasty undertone and more of a cynical nature to them.
Sharks teenage flyhalf Curwin Bosch thought he had won the match after giving his team the lead for the first time with a 78th-minute penalty.
But the Rebels levelled after the full-time hooter sounded in the Round Nine game when full-back Reece Hodge calmly slotted an angled, medium-range penalty
Bosch and Hodge were the only scorers, kicking three penalties each in the least entertaining match at Kings Park stadium this season.
South African referee Marius van der Westhuizen yellow-carded Rebels skipper and scrumhalf Nic Stirzaker after five minutes for a deliberate knock-on.
After 18 minutes, he showed Sharks centre Andre Esterhuizen a red card for a dangerous tackle on wing Sefanaia Naivalu.
Esterhuizen grabbed the giant Fijian around the throat and flung him face-first to the ground.
Amid the indiscipline, Hodge kicked two penalties and Bosch one to leave the Rebels 6-3 ahead at half-time.
Substitute Rebels hooker James Hanson walked to the sin-bin on 53 minutes for deliberately collapsing a maul.
A pushover try by the South Africans was disallowed a minute later and the Australians awarded a penalty when lock Ruan Botha was penalised for foul play.
Amazingly, given the punishment meted to Esterhuizen, the substitute forward grabbed an opponent around the throat and was fortunate to remain on the field.
Stirzaker was yellow-carded again for another intentional knock-on with 11 minutes left and an automatic red card followed.
In the battle of the boots, Bosch kicked his second penalty on 64 minutes to restore equality ahead of the dramatic climax to the game.
"Drawing was not a bad result given we struggled to string together multi-phase attacks," said Stirzaker.
"The yellow and red cards slowed the match down and the defences were dominant throughout."
Sharks skipper and loose forward Lubabalo Mtembu said his team felt they had lost even despite collecting two points.
"We never gained momentum and let our supporters down," he admitted.
"If we play like this against the Jaguares in Argentina next weekend, we will be in big trouble."
Sharks are four points above the Jaguares in what appears to be a two-team race to finish as the best runners-up in the Africa conferences and reach the knockout phase.
Rebels remained bottom of the Australian standings, but after five straight losses they have taken six points by shocking the Brumbies and holding the Sharks.
Man of the match: This was a game of such poor standards that we refuse to award anybody!
For the Sharks:
Pens: Bosch 3
For the Rebels:
Pens: Hodge 2
Yellow cards: Nic Stirzaker (Rebels, 4 and 69 - cynical fouls, slapping the ball down), James Hanson (Rebels, 53 - cynical foul, collapsing the maul)
Red cards: Andre Esterhuizen (Sharks, 17 - foul play, spear tackle), Nick Stirzaker (Rebels, 69 - two yellow card)
Sharks: 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Lukhanyo Am, 13 Jeremy Ward, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Philip van der Walt, 6 Lubabalo Mtembu (captain), 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Coenraad Oosthuizen, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Mahlatse Ralepelle, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Ruan Botha, 20 Jacques Vermeulen, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 23 Odwa Ndungane.
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Reece Hodge, 14 Sefa Naivalu, 13 Tom English, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Ben Volavola, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Nic Stirzaker (captain), 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Will Miller, 6 Jake Schatz, 5 Steve Cummins, 4 Culum Retallick, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Siliva Siliva, 1 Fereti Sa'aga.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Laurie Weeks, 18 Tom Moloney, 19 Esei Haangana, 20 Hugh Sinclair, 21 Mick Snowden, 22 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 23 Sione Tuipulotu.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Egon Seconds (South Africa), Stuart Berry (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)
Pictures by Wayne Seagreen