The Cell C Sharks were in determined mood when they defeated the Sunwolves 50-22 at Jonsson KINGS PARK in our final Vodacom Super Rugby match before touring Australia and New Zealand.
For the second week in a row, and the second consecutive home match, the match was played in near perfect conditions, although the heat and humidity certainly made their presence felt, with the Sunwolves in particular finding the going tough.
Still, they might have been outclassed and certainly outscored, but they get an A for effort and never gave up in an entertaining game that continued to get away from them as it progressed.
Within just under two minutes of play, flyhalf Robert du Preez stuck over a simple penalty following a good attacking build-up that had taken us to the Sunwolves’ 22. The option of immediate points was taken to get the scoreboard ticking.
The Sunwolves were being put under pressure thanks to multi-phase play that the coach had spoken about in the lead-up to the game, with Beast Mtawarira, Andre Esterhuizen and Akker van der Merwe all making prominent runs, before du Preez sent the ball out wide after the defences had been sucked into the middle of the field and Makazole Mapimpi had no trouble cantering over for the opening try of the match. Du Preez converted well from out wide to give us an early 10 point lead.
The Sunwolves, to their credit, played as they always do – a high intensity game and managed to disrupt our play, to the extent that they managed to dominate the attack for a good 10 minutes before kicking over a penalty, having lost numerous opportunities to score a try through handling errors.
Akker van der Merwe was prominent in the second try, in fact he was responsible completely as he took the ball 5m inside the Sunwolves half and saw off one tackler, before streaking down the touchline, offering the defence little opportunity to bring him down. What a fantastic piece of work! Du Preez’s touchline conversion took us into a 17-3 lead just shy of the half hour.
Andre Esterhuizen who just gets better and better in his all-round skills made a break, busting off the tackler before making metres and getting Tera Mtembu on the scoring list as he made the final run for the try under the posts to stretch the lead to 24-3 with the successful conversion and five minutes of the half remaining.
It was a nervy closure to the first half with the Sunwolves making a last ditch effort to score their first try. They played with intent and continuity, taking play through multiple phases and testing our defence, but ultimately there was no way through an impenetrable wall of committed defenders.
The Cell C Sharks survived an early scare in the second half when the Sunwolves capitalised on turnover ball and a try was scored, but the TMO confirmed the referee’s question over an earlier obstruction.
But it didn’t take long for the Sunwolves, high on confidence at their earlier inroads into our territory, to score a legitimate try in the corner.
However, pressure was converted into points almost immediately as the Sunwolves conceded a scrum at the kick-off and the ball was sent wide to Mapimpi who was just too good (and quick) as he scored his second try, stretching the lead to 29-8.
Try number five was a thing of true beauty, Cameron Wright sparking the quick attack, with Esterhuizen and Beast Mtawarira prominent before Jacques Vermeulen showed some gas to slice through a gap in the defence to put the result out of doubt.
On the hour, the Cell C Sharks’ defence was again tested as the Sunwolves took their attack through 10 phases before finally driving a forward over for their second try to cut our lead to 21 points.
The sixth try came with just over 10 minutes to go, coming at helter skelter pace when we conceded possession in the Sunwolves’ 22, regathered the ball in our half and Curwin Bosch kicked ahead. The bounce eluded him but not Sbu Nkosi who still had a lot of work to do, but slipped out of the tackle to score well.
The Sunwolves initially managed to stave off another try, only to throw a loose pass from a defensive scrum and Wright just had to dive on to the bobbling ball for the easiest of tries, converted by Bosch to raise the half century.
There was something for the Sunwolves’ supporters to cheer about with a try in the corner just before full-time but ultimately they had been no match for the rampant Cell C Sharks who will climb on a plane bound for Australia on Sunday with a spring in their step.
After the match, captain Ruan Botha was thrilled with the result, saying, “We’re very happy with the win, it was a hard fought game and hot out there. It’s easier to go on tour with a win under the belt, but the season still has a long way to go.
In a game when he set the record for most ever games for the Cell C Sharks, Vodacom Man of the Match Beast Mtawarira added: “The forwards really did their jobs, the backs finished off and this was the game we’ve been looking to play this season.”
Sunwolves captain Willie Britz said, “All credit to the Sharks, they’re well coached with some great players. We ran out of shape and were held up in tackles, credit to the Sharks defence.”