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Ken Borland



Sharks a dazzling regiment of ball-players in 3rd quarter 0

Posted on June 01, 2022 by Ken

The Sharks were a dazzling regiment of powerful ball-players in the third quarter, making up for a messy first half, as they beat Connacht 41-21 in their United Rugby Championship match at Kings Park on Saturday.

Second-half transformation

The Sharks were their own worst enemies in the first half, their mistakes leading to a 10-21 deficit at the break. But whether it was the magic of fullback Aphelele Fassi or a rocket dispensed in the changeroom by some regimental sergeant-major type during the break, the Sharks were inspired when they came out for the second half.

They scored three tries in the first 14 minutes.

Really strong carries by prop Ox Nche and flank Henco Venter were followed by patient phase play and then Grant Williams, playing as a replacement on the wing, stepped and darted through the defensive line, with centre Marius Louw in support to finish well.

Four minutes later, hooker Bongi Mbonambi muscled over from a ruck following a lineout maul, and then some magnificent running and handling by the Sharks earned a 54th-minute penalty. The lineout and maul were set and, after a series of pick-and-goes, lock Gerbrandt Grobler burrowed over from close range to put the Sharks 31-21 up.

Get Fassi on the international stage

If there was one player who provided the urgency for the spectacular Sharks’ turnaround, then it was Fassi.

It started with his brilliant 50/22 kick that gave the Sharks the territory for their first try after halftime.

Fassi also played a key role in the next try through his brilliant up-and-under take and then searing break that took him clear into the Connacht 22.

Fassi also produced two probing kicks into the corner that could well have led to tries with kinder bounces of the ball.

The 24-year-old should definitely be in the Springbok squad, if not to be played on the wing then to be groomed as Willie le Roux’s successor.

Hellish first half

The Sharks were horribly untidy in the first half against a Connacht team that were clinical and highly combative in the collisions and breakdown. But they made life more difficult for themselves through poor kicking options, bad handling and slack discipline which saw them concede seven penalties. The halftime score of 21-10 certainly did not lie when it came to who had been the better team, Connacht scoring two tries and flyhalf Conor Fitzgerald kicking three penalties.

Two of those penalties came after the Sharks were caught with their hands in the cookie jar at ruck time and  if coach Sean Everitt tells no fibs then he will acknowledge that the home team did not learn from their mistakes in the first 40 minutes.

Williams and Kok at 13 boosted the Sharks attack

Lukhanyo Am will be back for their next match, but the Sharks’ midfield has been a problem for a while. It is probably no coincidence that their second-half resurgence came with Werner Kok having moved to outside centre to replace the injured Ben Tapuai and livewire scrumhalf Grant Williams coming on at right wing.

Kok just brings more attacking thrust and is wholehearted in defence, if not necessarily a mastermind. Williams has the pace for the wing and a very dangerous step as well.

Hooker Mbonambi and lock Grobler were the other standout players for the Sharks.

Scorers

SharksTries: Gerbrandt Grobler (2), Marius Louw, Bongi Mbonambi, Le Roux Roets. Conversions: Curwin Bosch (5). Penalties: Bosch (2).

ConnachtTries: Gavin Thornbury, Caolin Blade. Conversion: Conor Fitzgerald. Penalties: Fitzgerald (3).

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