RYAN VREDE watched the Sharks reignite their play-off challenge with a 53-11 bonus-point victory over the Force.
Despite the emphatic scoreline, the slick performance the Sharks have been in search of continues to elude them, but in the context of their play-off charge they did what was required.
While they bagged the all-important four-try bonus point, their attacking play generally lacked variety, innovation and precision. Instead they relied too heavily on individuals to inspire or fed off the Force’s numerous mistakes. A better team would not have been as defensively generous as the Force were this evening and the Sharks will know they have work to do in this facet of play in the coming weeks.
However, there was certainly plenty for them to be pleased about. Defensively they were outstanding, exhibiting good structure and bossing the gainline through brutal hits that never allowed the Force the opportunity to build attacking momentum. There are attacking concerns from structured play, but they remain a side capable of crossing the whitewash and if they can marry that with a high defensive standard they will advance their play-off cause and be very difficult to beat.
Then there were the individual contributions from key players. Beast Mtawarira was industrious in attack and defence, Bismarck du Plessis carried powerfully and was a force on defence, Paul Jordaan looks a good fit in the Sharks’ problem position of outside centre and there was a strong showing from lock Anton Bresler.
But the most lavish praise must be reserved for the brilliant young Marcell Coetzee. Coetzee, who turned 21 this week, is a Springbok in the making and is likely to be one within the year. His attacking work-rate is phenomenal and he rarely doesn’t make yards at the gainline. His tackle fight is equally efficient and he appears to possess a degree of mongrel that you can’t coach. The South African loose forward factory regularly churns out gems, but he was made in the luxury division and boasts performance specs well beyond the ordinary.
The Sharks effectively sealed the result five minutes after half time, Louis Ludik crossing on 41 minutes and Lwazi Mvovo intercepting twice to score and add to Steven Sykes and Jordaan’s first half scores, the latter crafted by a sublime Pat Lambie break. The Force’s resistance crumbled thereafter and they became a soft target for the Sharks, who added to their try tally through Craig Burden and Jacques Botes.
The conference title is probably beyond them, but with two matches against the Cheetahs and one against the Lions remaining you have to fancy the Sharks’ chances of making the play-offs. Consistency has eluded them and that needs to change. This performance was flawed but can certainly be the catalyst for their final surge in the league phase.