A last-minute penalty from flyhalf Scott Spedding gave the Sharks a morale-boosting 13-10 victory against the Bulls in the battle of the second-stringers at Sun City.
A try from replacement lock Steven Sykes 20 minutes into the second half gave the Sharks a deserved 10-3 lead, before former Griquas scrumhalf Neil Powell darted over to draw the teams level. Then, with time up on the clock, Spedding stepped up to the plate and sent the ball sailing through the uprights.
While the result of the match doesn’t really matter, the performance of Bulls No 8 Pierre Spies certainly does. This time last year, Spies was billed as the next Jonah Lomu. Now he’s quite rightly being called the next Bobby Skinstad.
The No 8-turned-winger-turned No 8 cooked for the Bulls in the 33 degree heat. His driving runs from the back of the scrum gained his team valuable metres, with the Sharks needing two or three defenders to bring the Bully Boy down.
Spies was well supported by flank Pedrie Wannenburg, who also put his hand up for selection against the Cheetahs on 10 February.
Before the game, Bulls technical advisor John McFarland told keo.co.za to watch the Sharks forwards and his words proved to be prophetic. The Sharks dominated possesion and territory in the first half, but failed to take the opportunties that came their way. With captain Johan Muller dominating the line-outs and Solly Tyibilika having a blinder at flank, the Sharks pack troubled the Bulls for large periods, only for the team to lose posession on three occassions when inside the opposition 22m area. The teams were all square (3-3) at the break.
The Sharks backline, with an average age of 22, weren’t as impressive as the men up front but showed why they are considered to be the future of Natal rugby. While Spedding won the game for his team, he made a number of wrong decisions, including a grubber through the Bulls defence when he had men on his outside. Grant Rees was impressive in the midfield, Craig Burden had a few good runs on the left wing, while Greg Goosen showed promise at fullback.
For the Bulls, Powell’s superb tactical kicking kept the Sharks pinned in their own half, while winger Danwell Demas ran right around Odwa Ndungane early in the game. Flyhalf Morne Steyn had a solid game, but missed an easy penalty chance from 20m out, which would have given his side a 6-0 lead in the first half. The rest of the Bulls backs were quiet. Dries Scholtz bashed the ball up as usual, but also dropped a sitter.
Sharks – Try: Steven Sykes. Conversion: Scott Spedding. Penalty: Spedding.
Bulls – Try: Neil Powell. Conversion: Morne Styen. Penalty: Steyn
15 Greg Goosen, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Grant Rees, 12 Bradley Barritt, 11 Craig Burden, 10 Scott Spedding, 9 Scott Mathie, 8 Jaco Gouws, 7 Braam Immelman, 6 Solly Tyibilika, 5 Johann Muller (c), 4 Johan Ackermann, 3 Danie Saayman, 2 Skipper Badenhorst, 1 Heinke van der Merwe.
15 Marius Delport, 14 John Mametsa,13 Rudi Coetzee, 12 Dries Scholtz, 11 Danwel Demas, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Neil Powell, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Tim Dlulane, 6 Pedrie Wannenburg, 5 Cliffie Milton, 4 Adriaan Fondse, 3 Danie Thiart, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Wessel Roux