The Sharks made a big statement in the Currie Cup as they claimed a comprehensive 41-27 bonus-point win over the Blue Bulls at Loftus on Saturday night.
This victory was laid on the foundation of an utterly dominant effort from the Sharks’ forward pack, who reigned supreme at the set pieces and brutally overwhelmed their counterparts up front.
Just as this game kicked off, the Bulls’ URC team had endured a disappointing quarterfinal defeat against the Stormers, and yet the Currie Cup side still included Springboks such as Sbu Nkosi, Cornal Hendricks, Lizo Gqoboka, Marcell Coetzee and Morne Steyn.
On paper, the Blue Bulls did appear to have the slightly stronger side, and it was that man Steyn who slotted a couple of early penalties as the hosts initially seemed to have established a semblance of control.
However, after a yellow card to Bulls hooker Jan-Hendrik Wessels, the Sharks struck almost immediately through opposite number Dan Jooste, while the conversion from Lionel Cronje suddenly sent the visitors into an 8-6 lead.
Keep in mind that last week’s 24-6 success over Griquas at Kings Park made it two consecutive victories for the Sharks, and so the Durban-based side certainly came into this encounter with some confidence.
Just before Wessels returned from the sin bin, the Sharks caused further damage on the scoreline as Khwezi Mona was the next front-rower to score and establish a nine-point buffer for his side.
To the Bulls’ credit, though, they responded quickly with a timely try to Juan Mostert as the two well-matched sides continued to trade blows.
Yet the Sharks were enjoying good gains in the tight exchanges, and from another lineout drive just before the break, Jooste burst over for his second try.
A 22-13 lead at halftime served as some statement for the Sharks, while they opened up an even more commanding advantage just after the restart as centre Murray Koster snapped up an intercept before running 50m to score.
With the scoreline reading 29-13 at that point, it was always going to be virtually impossible for the Bulls to find a way back, and when Sharks substitute Dameon Venter scored in the 65th minute after another strong maul it was game, set and match.
The Bulls would score two consolation tries to Eugene Hare and Zak Burger late in the game, but in between there would be another five-pointer to the Sharks' Mpilo Gumede to round off a dominant performance.
Blue Bulls - Tries:
Blue Bulls - Tries:Juan Mostert, Eugene Hare, Zak Burger. Conversions:Morne Steyn (3). Penalties: Steyn (2).
Sharks - Tries:Dan Jooste (2), Khwezi Mona, Murray Koster, Dameon Venter, Mpilo Gumede. Conversions:Lionel Cronje (3), Fred Zeilinga. Penalty:Cronje.