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DURBAN – It was always going to be a big ask for the Sharks to sneak into the Rainbow Cup final in Treviso by giving the Bulls a hiding in Durban, and it is fitting that it is the best team in South Africa who will be playing Benetton this Saturday, with the Bulls powering home 34-22.
The problem for the Sharks was always going to be keeping the Bulls try-less, while attempting to score four of their own, never mind stay more than seven points ahead of Marcell Coetzee’s team.
From early in the second half it was evident that the Sharks would not achieve either objective, because while they were busy squandering a surfeit of unexpected possession and good field position, the Bulls were ruthlessly taking their chances.
And by the 60th minute it was all over as far as qualification for the final was concerned, as well as who would win the match full stop. It was at that point that Stravino Jacobs cut cleanly through the Sharks’ defence and finished powerfully to score the Bulls fourth try, thus securing the Bulls boarding passes for their flight to Italy on Monday night.
There had been an unhappy pre-match drama for the Sharks when they had to withdraw their Springbok props Thomas du Toit and Ox Nche because of an objection from the Bulls.
The Sharks had thought they would have their services — even though they were due to be rested because of Springbok protocols — because of injuries to a number of their props but the Bulls declined a request from the Sharks.
That meant a farcical situation where coach Sean Everitt had to put two props still recovering from injury on the bench in Michael Kumberai and Mzamo Majola.
How big an impact would that have on the game? Well in the very first scrum the Sharks were penalised and the same thing happened in the second scrum , but ultimately the Sharks’ starting props of Khwezi Mona and Khutha Mchunu gave a good account of themselves, and it was not the Sharks’ scrumming that cost them the game.
The problem was sloppy execution at crucial moments as the tryline beckoned, while the Bulls taught the Sharks a lesson on exactly this point.
Morne Steyn kicked two penalties for an early lead before young Sharks lock JJ van der Mescht wrestled over from a lineout drive on the half hour mark, and Curwin Bosch’s conversion out the Sharks ahead at 7-6.
Unfortunately for Bosch, he was on the wrong side of game-changing moment five minutes before half time when he had a chip kick charged down by Cornal Hendricks, who gathered and scampered 60m to the tryline, with Bosch forlornly chasing him.
The Sharks had been on threatening attack at the time, so it was a sucker punch try, and also a fine solo score that illustrated that Hendricks still has the pace that made him a Bok winger.
As half-time approached, Bosch pulled three of those seven points back with a long-range penalty, making it 13-10 to the visitors at the break. Ten minutes into the second half the Bulls scored their second try, a quick tap penalty by scrumhalf Ivan van Zyl., and suddenly the Sharks were ten points behind and the Bulls were halfway to a try-scoring bonus point.
But the Sharks were not done yet. A strong break down the touchline by Werner Kok allowed him to neatly set up Siya Kolisi for a strong finish in the corner. Bosch missed the conversion and the Sharks were 15-20 behind.
That Kolisi try was canceled out a minute later when Jacobs broke clean through to settle the match
There was consolation try by Anthony Volmink as the game petered out amid celebrations from the Bulls.
Sharks – Tries: JJ van der Mescht, Anthony Volmink, Siya Kolisi. Conversions: Curwin Bosch, Manie Libbok. Penalty: Bosch.
Bulls – Tries: Cornal Hendricks, Stravino Jacobs, David Kriel, Janko Swanepoel. Conversions: Morne Steyn (3). Penalties: Steyn (2).