Sport / Rugby

Heinz Schenk
2 minute read
23 Feb 2019
5:15 pm

Sharks maintain their perfect start to the season

Heinz Schenk

But their continued inability to translate dominance into points against the Blues means their still a work in progress.

Aphelele Fassi of the Cell C Sharks during the Super Rugby match between Cell C Sharks and Blues at Jonsson Kings Park on February 23, 2019 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images)

The Sharks produced a typically Jekyll-and-Hyde performance in beating the Blues 24-7 at Kings Park in Durban on Saturday.

Their varied play in the first half was impressive and should’ve translated into the a match-winning buffer by half-time.

Yet the Durbanites once again slacked off after the turnaround and continued to butcher chances, before an intercept at the death by Curwin Bosch saw them gain a bonus-point.

Who was the star in this match?

Blues blindsider Dalton Papali’i confirmed his burgeoning reputation with gritty performance, particularly at the breakdown, even though he did prevent a try for his side through obstruction at a scrum. However, the star of the show was Lukhanyo Am. The Springbok midfielder produced a superb, varied display where he showcased all his skills at various stages. He broke the line twice, created the first try with a deft chip forward, stole a breakdown ball and made his tackles, including the cruncher that led the Sharks’ final try.

Key moments and themes

  • The Sharks showed early why the coaching staff want to expand their attacking horizons this season. Following Am’s initial run and superb kick forward, wing Makazole Mapimpi did superbly to keep the ball in play with a soccer-like kick before promising fullback Aphelele Fassi rounded off. It was a superb sequence of X-factor play that illustrated how dangerous this backline can be.
  • Yet the key to the Sharks’ good start to the season has been their ability to still stick to the things that they’ve done well in the past. Structure has been a strength and that was shown by hooker Akker van der Merwe’s try from a maul. Pivot Robert du Preez’s score might’ve been an individual effort, but it did come from solid phase play.
  • One aspect that will frustrate the Durbanites is a continued inability to ruthlessly capitalise on scoring opportunities. There were at least three other occasions where the Sharks should’ve scored and make the game safe. A bonus point win shouldn’t actually have been considered lucky, but their waywardness eventually led to that feeling.
  • The Blues showed their limitations in terms of coping with the Sharks’ power play, yet they flourished once proceedings became looser in the second half. Replacement Taniela Tele’a scored a try on debut to reward their dominance of territory and possession though they’ll still bemoan their lack of street smarts in general to take advantage.
  • The national setup will hope that S’bu Nkosi being stretchered off for suspected concussion isn’t something more serious. His early form has been promising.

Point scorers:

Sharks – Tries: Aphelele Fassi, Akker van der Merwe, Robert du Preez, Curwin Bosch. Conversions: Du Preez (3).

Blues – Try: Taniela Tele’a. Conversion: Otere Black.

For more sport your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.