Sharks out-boot Bulls

JON CARDINELLI reports on the Sharks’ 13-12 victory against the Bulls at Kings Park on Friday.

The scorecard will confirm that the Bulls were the better side in terms of successful shots on goal, but in the context of a rain-afflicted clash, the Sharks’ line-kicking game proved decisive to the outcome.

The Sharks played in the right areas, and it was a superior kicking game that pressured the Bulls into costly errors.

The Bulls took an early lead via a drop goal by Louis Fouche, but it was a garryowen that led to the game’s first try for Sharks wing Paul Jordaan.

Fouche would kick two more penalties to steer the Bulls to a 9-5 lead, but it was clear they were struggling to live with the Sharks’ kicking game. Coach John Plumtree made a tactical switch before kickoff, moving Riaan Viljoen to flyhalf and Meyer Bosman to centre. It was a savvy move in that Viljoen’s strong kicking game was well-suited to conditions.

However, Plumtree would have expected more of Bosman in terms of goal-kicking. The weather couldn’t have been worse and it is never easy to kick at Kings Park, but Bosman missed two conversion opportunities in the first half, and a crucial penalty in the second.

The Sharks did score a great try in the second stanza that handed them a 13-9 lead, a sizeable advantage considering the conditions. Cobus Reinach broke from the lineout and found captain Keegan Daniel in support. Daniel fended the cover defence and corkscrewed his way over the tryline.

Unfortunately, the Sharks’ effort began to flag in the final half hour. Following Bosman’s missed conversion and wayward penalty attempt, the Sharks were pinned in their own half.

The Bulls applied the pressure and looked to have finally crossed the line when referee Mark Lawrence stopped play. A brief consultation with the TMO resulted in Sharks hooker Pieter Dixon being red-carded for kicking an opposition player. It meant the Sharks would play the final 11 minutes with 14 men.

This is where the Sharks showed their mettle. They absorbed the pressure, and eventually won a scrum penalty on their own 22. They cleared to touch and lost the ensuing lineout, but the Bulls failed to punish that mistake. In fact, after a bout of kicking, it was the Bulls who eventually conceded possession and with that a last opportunity to win the game.