Ken Borland
Sports Journalist
3 minute read
23 Apr 2022
8:42 pm

URC result: Sharks pip Leinster — four talking points

Ken Borland

The men from Durban edged the table-toppers from Ireland in a thrilling match in Durban.

Jaden Hendrikse of the Sharks chases after the ball during their URC match against Leinster in Durban earlier this year. Picture: Darren Stewart/Gallo Images

The Sharks finally stopped giving Leinster get-out-of-jail-free cards as they scraped a 28-23 win in their United Rugby Championship match at Kings Park on Saturday.

Here are four talking points.

Wasteful Sharks

The Sharks held the upper hand for most of the game but they were extremely wasteful. It started with flyhalf Curwin Bosch missing two penalties in the first 12 minutes. They also gave away several soft penalties when in possession deep inside the Leinster 22, for things as unnecessary as shoving their own player into contact or grabbing an opposition player around the neck when their maul was only a few feet from the line.

Basic errors in handling and poor decision-making when players had made line-breaks also contributed to the Sharks being their own worst enemies.

The 31st man

One of legendary former Sharks and Springbok coach Ian McIntosh’s most famous quotations is that “the referee should be No 31 on the field and not No 1”.

Unfortunately, the URC decided, in their wisdom, to appoint a 27-year-old referee with just one previous game under his belt in this competition, to officiate in a crunch fixture between two of the top sides in the tournament.

In the frantic closing stages, Georgian referee Nika Amashukeli was at the centre of several controversial decisions. Leinster were given two yellow cards in seven minutes, and Sharks fans will believe they should have had three.

The Sharks were then penalised at the scrum when it seemed clear Leinster had collapsed, setting up a daunting last five minutes when the visitors camped on their line. There were more big decisions by Amashukeli, including his on-field call of held-up after the final hooter, which the TMO did not find evidence to overturn.

Bridging the gap

The positive side for the Sharks is that they showed they can compete with the defending champions and log-leaders, who were missing their major stars. But the Sharks held the upper hand for most of the match, their scrum and rolling maul being dominant, their territorial kicking was better and they also showed tremendous penetration in their counter-attack.

Given all of that, the Sharks should have won more comfortably, but, once again, their finishing and composure in the red zone left a lot to be desired.

On the other hand, their composure in defence on their own tryline at the death, was nothing short of heroic, especially with replacement hooker Kerron van Vuuren yellow-carded.

Fabulous Fassi

Sharks coach Sean Everitt had said in the build-up to the game that the return from injury of Aphelele Fassi would be important for their counter-attack, and the fullback was able to cash in when Leinster kicked too long.

The Sharks were 7-17 down with halftime rapidly approaching when Fassi fielded a kick eight metres inside his own half, ghosted past the first defender and then weaved away on a brilliant counter-attack, before a lovely underarm pass to Jaden Hendrikse saw the scrumhalf score.

It was a moment of magic that kept the Sharks in the game. Bosch was also dangerous running back kicks.

Scorers

SharksTries: Makazole Mapimpi, Jaden Hendrikse, Bongi Mbonambi, Phepsi Buthelezi. Conversions: Curwin Bosch (4).

LeinsterTries: Scott Penny, Tommy O’Brien. Conversions: Ciaran Frawley (2). Penalties: Frawley (3).