The Waratahs all but knocked the Sharks out of the Super 14 with a 16-12 victory at a drenched King’s Park.
The Sharks looked a comfortable home semi-finalists just a month ago but have lost the urgency they had in the initial stages of the tournament and their future is now out of their hands. Again it was a match where they looked disinterested and maybe Ben Mowen’s statement before the match that their egos are too big was true.
The Tahs hold the best defensive record in the competition and the Sharks failed to score a try against the couple from the visitors. The only positive was Ruan Pienaar’s steady boot as he kicked with 100% accuracy, slotting four penalties.
The Sharks dominated the key territory battle but failed to finish many opportunities.The rain came intermittently after starting on the 15-minute mark, while the wind was also behind the Sharks in the opening half. It wasn’t conducive to either side getting the bonus-point, but the Sharks looked lacklustre while the Tahs will be content with the victory.
Sharks missed tackles at crucial moments which led to Timana Tahu’s try in the first half as the visitors went into the break 8-6 up.
The hosts didn’t have the dominance at scrum time they enjoyed last week and when John Smit came on he had a torrid time against Benn Robinson. Two scrums later in the match Smit and the pack got shunted back in what will be worrying for Bok coach Peter de Villiers.
The Sharks had a sustained period of dominance in the opening exchanges of the second stanza, but whenever the tryline beckoned, individuals chose to go it alone when the man was on the outside. JP Pietersen chose the correct option when he broke the line, but referee Mark Lawrence ruled he made a double movement as he placed the ball over the line.
The hosts held the lead for two short periods but relinquished it whenever they looked like taking control. Wing Peter Playford’s try late in the second came from an incorrect decision from assistant ref Joey Salmans when he strangely awarded the lineout to the Tahs. Stefan Terblanche made a terrible error of judgement in attempting to hack the ball out and Playford dived on the ball over the line.
Terblanche had an ordinary day, and his ill-discipline also cost his team when he gave away a silly penalty late in the game, ala Rory Kockott last week.
The Sharks launched one final attack in the final couple of minutes as the rain hammered down , putting six phases together for the first time in the match, but Smit knocked on, and title hopes went down the drain.
The Sharks now have a crunch match against the Bulls, while the Tahs travel to Ellis Park to face the Lions.
By Grant Ball