The Calamity Cats slumped to their eighth Vodacom Super 14 loss as they were thumped 36-8 by the Sharks in a scrappy encounter at Ellis Park on Saturday evening.
But the defeat was not the only bad news for the beleaguered Cats. With about three minutes left on the clock, Ashwin Willemse â€“ making his return to this level in this match â€“ was stretchered off the field with what looked like a serious injury. Willemse had made a good impact, but the latest injury saw the player in tears as he was helped from the field.
It was the cruelest of blows for a player that has battled for years to overcome a series of serious injuries. The rest of his Cats team-mates will be at wits end following the Cats seventh defeat on the trot.
After everything that had gone on this week at Ellis Park, the Cats were expected to give the Sharks a good run for their money. Instead the first 40 minutes was a joke as they failed to hold onto the ball for enough phases to come close to threatening the visitors. And the second half wasnâ€™t much better either.
Although the Cats looked more penetrative after the restart, poor handling as well as a host of wrong decisions meant the Sharks simply had to be patient and the inevitable mistake would materialise.
Each time the Cats managed to get close to the tryline, someone would knock on or lose the ball in some way. The Sharks by contrast looked composed and had a purpose when on attack, especially in the first half. Unfortunately the Sharks also lost their shape after the interval â€“ quite possibly as a result of the shocking stuff the Cats were dishing up.
In the first half, the Sharks were in complete control of the tight phases and had leapt into a 12-3 lead by the 20-minute mark courtesy of four Tony Brown penalties to the one by Andre Pretorius.
Pretorius had, in fact, levelled matters in the 6th minute at 3-3 as the Cats looked hungry to defy their mounting band of critics with a determined display. Unfortunately that proved to be the last time the home team came even close to threatening the Sharks.
With the visitors having the lionâ€™s share (excuse the pun) of the possession and territory in the opening stanza, halfback pairing Ruan Pienaar and Tony Brown were able to dictate matters and pin the Cats in their own half.
Tries by flank Jacques Botes and tighthead prop BJ Botha were just reward for a Sharks team that made Vodacom Super 14 rugby against the Cats look like childâ€™s play.
The third quarter descended into a scrap, devoid of any sparkling rugby from either side as the error count mounted. Incredibly it was the Cats that emerged from the haze first when lock Willem Stoltz took advantage of the Sharksâ€™ lethargic defence to score.
That, however, served to spur the Sharks from their malaise and they scored their third try via Adrian Jacobs. The win and bonus point was sealed when Odwa Ndungane dotted down in the corner with two minutes to play.
It was just reward for the effort the Sharks put in and was another nail in the coffin of Cats coach Frans Ludeke, who will have run out of excuses after the drivel served up by his team on Saturday.
Try: Willem Stoltz
Pen: Andre Pretorius 1
Tries: Jacques Botes, BJ Botha, Adrian Jacobs, Odwa Ndungane
Con: Tony Brown 2
Pen: Brown 4
By Andrew Hollely