The Sharks cruised to a 33-22 win against the Lions in the Absa Currie Cup on Friday, after leading 22-10 at the break.
Keo.co.za has learnt that Odwa Ndungane will be included in the Springbok squad for the away leg of the Tri-Nations. Any doubts lingering in the mind of coach Jake White should now be gone after yet another commanding performance from the dreadlocked winger.
Ndungane produced two moments of magic in Durban that resulted in two crucial first-half tries.
With the teams level at 3-all after the first quarter, the Sharks sent it wide to Ndungane who took the tackle near the touchline and offloaded to Carl Bezuidenhout. The debutant fullback managed to ground the ball on the line just before making contact with the flag, and the TMO awarded the try after studying several replays.
A few minutes later, the Sharks winger received possession in midfield, sent Doppies la Grange the wrong way with a dummy, before switching with Jacques Botes who scored under the posts.
That double strike helped settle the Sharks after a shaky start.
The Lions had opened the scoring when their forwards bashed it up the centre of the field, before a long skip pass from Earl Rose found Louis Ludik. The fullback straightened the line, sucked in the last Sharks defender and gave the try-scoring pass to Wylie Human.
Human scored another when he intercepted a pass meant for Adrian Jacobs, but the Sharks went over again just before half-time when a grubber from James sat up perfectly for Andries Strauss.
James extended the Sharks lead with a penalty soon after the break, but it was his missed tackle that saw Human claim his hat-trick. Rookie Lions scrumhalf Rory Kockott had missed his first three attempts at goal, but he finally sent the ball through the posts to make it 25-15.
The Sharks pack dominated in the Super 14, and their Currie Cup version looks just as dangerous. The Natalians made good use of the driving maul throughout the game and were finally rewarded when Bismarck du Plessis went over on the hour mark. The hooker, relishing a rare start, followed that up with a rampaging run down the left-hand touchline, bouncing off three Lions defenders, and was deservedly named Man of the Match.
Another James penalty made it 33-17, but a last-minute try from Springbok Sevens star Jaco Pretorius gave the Lions a bonus point.
Apart from Pretorius and Human, the young Jo’burg backline struggled to get going. Kockott had a shocker at scrumhalf, Rose was solid if unspectacular at flyhalf and Jorrie Muller was his usual erratic self on the wing.
Wikus van Heerden had a decent game at flank, but he’s simply not in the same class as a Schalk Burger – the man he’s expected to replace in the Bok side at some point this season. The Lions captain should have earned his team a second bonus point after the full-time hooter, but lost the ball over the tryline when tackled by Ryan Kankowski.
The Lions player who advanced his cause the most was young tighthead Brian Mujati, who more than held his own against former Bulls loosehead Kees Lensing.
For the Sharks, Johann Muller, Venter, Botes and Du Plessis were dominant up front, while Grant Rees (who played for the Wildebeest in the Vodacom Cup) did well outside Ruan Pienaar, James and Strauss.
Sharks - Tries: Carl Bezuidenhout, Jacques Botes, Andries Strauss, Bismarck du Plessis. Conversions: Butch James (2). Penalties: James (3).
Lions - Tries: Wylie Human (3), Jaco Pretorius. Conversion: Rory Kockott.
By Simon Borchardt