Sharks break SA's Indian Ocean duck
Sharks break SA's Indian Ocean duckSHARE
The Sharks became the first South African team to win in Australasia this year, when they edged the Rebels 22-16 in Melbourne on Friday.
Despite being clearly the superior outfit, a combination of their own shocking execution, poor tackling and a string of questionable calls kept the Rebels within striking distance throughout.
The teams scored one try each – although the Sharks were denied an obvious penalty try in what was one of those strange rulings – with the boot of Frans Steyn (five penalties) beating the boot of Jason Woodward (three penalties).
That made them the first SA team to cross the Indian Ocean and win – 12 weeks into the competition. As a result they cemented their place at the top of both the SA conference and global standings.
The dubious calls were not restricted to those that went against the Sharks. The Rebels' try should have been disallowed – not because Bismarck du Plessis was still talking to his team on instruction of the referee, but because the sneaky quick tap was not legal.
Apart from breaking the Indian Ocean duck, the result is a huge morale booster for the Durban-based team, who suffered a humiliating loss against the Highlanders at home last week.
Rebels fans will bemoan their team's own high error count – as they dominated territory and possession, but let themselves down with costly handling errors and penalties through a lack of discipline.
In their usual fashion, the Rebels, who have won six of their last seven games at home, refused to lay down.
The win will add a little more spice to their encounter next week with Australian conference leaders the Brumbies, when the Sharks' Director of Rugby coach Jake White returns to face his old team for the first time.
In the second minute of the match Hegarty batted a ball dead as Sharks fullback Lwazi Mvovo attempted to grab it and touch down. However, only a penalty was awarded, despite the TMO constantly hinting at a penalty try.
The Melbourne side made more runs and line-breaks and gained more metres than their rivals, yet found themselves going to the dressing room 6-15 down at the interval – five Steyn penalties to two from Woodward.
The Rebels reduced their arrears with a third Woodward penalty with 25 minutes to go, and the game was up for grabs.
Then the league leaders were able to stamp themselves on proceedings, with Lwazi Mvovo and JP Pietersen combined to devastating effect after a promising Rebels attack broke down.
The Durban-based side broke swiftly on a counter from their own 22, with Mvovo accelerating down the pitch before feeding Pietersen, who was able to saunter towards the try-line to ground the ball one handed.
Steyn stretched the lead to 13 points when he converted – 22-9 with 20 minutes to go.
With 10 minutes to go an tempers fraying, the referee called the captains together. While Du Plessis was still chatting to his troops, a quick tap allowed replacement Pat Leafa to scored his side's try. Even if the referee had called time on, the try should not have been allowed, given that the quick tap was not a legal one.
Woodward's conversion made it a six-point game (22-16), which is how it stayed to the end.
Man of the match: Lwazi Mvovo and JP Pietersen combined brilliantly to produce the only legal try of the match. Forwards like Stephan Lewies, Willem Alberts, Bismarck du Plessis and Tendai Mtawarira put in huge efforts. However, our award goes to Sharks flank Jean Deysel, who not only produced the game's biggest tackle count – by some distance – but was very effective with ball in hand.
For the Rebels:
Pens: Woodward 3
For the Sharks:
Pens: Steyn 5
Rebels: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Male Sau, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Tom English, 10 Bryce Hegarty, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Scott Higginbotham (captain), 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Colby Fainga'a, 5 Luke Jones, 4 Cadeyrn Neville, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Cruze Ah-Nau.
Replacements: 16 Pat Leafa, 17 Max Lahiff, 18 Paul Alo-Emilie, 19 Hugh Pyle, 20 Sean McMahon, 21 Nic Stirzaker, 22 Tom Kingston, 23 Angus Roberts.
Sharks: 15 Lwazi Mvovo, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Heimar Williams, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Francois Steyn, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Willem Alberts, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (captain), 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Etienne Oosthuizen, 20 Keegan Daniel, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Fred Zeilinga, 23 SP Marais.
Referee: Andrew Lees (Australia)
Assistant referees: Rohan Hoffmann, James Leckie (Australia)
TMO: Peter Marshall (Australia)