Sharks savage Valke

The Sharks secured their place in the semi-final by beating the Valke 48-10 at the Absa Stadium Durban.

Vodacom Western Province’s victory over Griquas and the Vodacom Cheetahs securing a bonus-point at Loftus, means the Durban outfit have to be content with return to Bloemfontein.

The Sharks where always favourites, but the pace and intensity with which the visitors started, reminded the hosts that they would be made to graft for the win.

Both teams had early opportunities to score but savage defence thwarted their surge and it took a Francois Steyn penalty to break the deadlock.

The youthful trio of Waylon Murray, Brad Barrit and Keegan Daniel combined to create the Sharks first try. Daniel collected a pin-point Barritt pass and broke the defensive line 10 metres out. Great support play by Murray saw Daniel offload in the tackle and he crossed with three defenders hanging onto him.

The Sharks smelt blood and two minutes later a converted Adi Jacobs try made it 17-3. Steyn was central to the move, as his inside dish to Jacobs sent the winger away on a 35-metre run before he offloaded to Odwa Ndungane to score.

Handling errors and poor decision-making marred the Valke’s play, and it was from a free kick resulting from a delayed throw in that the Sharks scored their third.

Eightman Ryan Kankowski was tackled into touch 10 metres short of the tryline and from the resultant free kick for the delay, the Sharks took a quick tap, swung the ball wide to expose a scattered defence and all that remained was for JP Pietersen to draw his defender and hand Ndungane his second try of the match.

The Sharks looked irrepressible and the Valke defence had no response to their excellent running lines and inventive play. The all important bonus-point try by Jacobs and a Steyn seven-pointer at the half-time siren, sent them down the tunnel with a commanding 36-3 ahead.

Brent Russell replaced JP Pietersen at the break and quickly showed his value as an attacking force. He was the catalyst for an attacking movement which eventually broke down on the Valke 22m line.

It was however the visitors who struck first through Valke wing, Riaan Viljoen, who poached the ball in the tackle and ran 50-metres to score. But the home side quickly doused any hopes of a comeback when an unstoppable driving maul saw Ryan Kankowski emerge from the melee to score.

Russell’s influence was telling and it seemed like he was suffering no ill-effects to his bench rash when he blitzed the Valke with a long range try that came from a turnover in the home side’s 22. Ndungane’s awareness sent the dynamo on an 80-metre sprint that no defender could match. Steyn’s conversion was the last points of a second half that failed to produce the free-flowing play that had characterised the first.

The Sharks now brace themselves for their second trip to Bloemfontein in two weeks and will hope that Warren Britz’s mid-week statement that they would be confident of victory should they face the Cheetahs in the semi-fianl, comes to fruition.

By Ryan Vrede

Scorers

Sharks

Tries: Waylon Murray,Odwa Ndungane (2), Adi Jacobs, Francois Steyn, Ryan Kankowski, Brent Russell
Conversions: Steyn (5)
Penalties:Steyn

Valke

Tries: Riaan Viljoen
Conversions: Louis Strydom
Penalties: Strydom