The Cell C Sharks got their Carling Currie Cup campaign off to an emphatic start with a well-deserved 45-10 victory over a game Phakisa Pumas side at Jonsson Kings Park on Friday evening.
The bonus point victory allowed them to take the lead on the competition log after the opening game of the tournament and while it was a pretty tight game, the scoreline emphasises the Cell C Sharks’ dominance in almost every facet against a Pumas side that never gave up but were ultimately outplayed.
An early possible try was referred to the TMO when Kerron van Vuuren was put in space by Curwin Bosch, but the pass was ruled forward. Although there was no score, it was a sign of how the team wanted to play, building good momentum and playing a high tempo style of rugby.
Not five minutes later the try stood when Jeremy Ward followed up a loose ball that the Pumas had failed to field and his charge down gifted him the five pointer under the posts with Bosch’s conversion making it seven.
There was always going to be a big battle between the forwards and scrum time was keenly contested. But the second try showed how hard the Cell C Sharks’ pack has worked on their mauling as they worked their way close to the tryline before Sanele Nohamba took the ball from the maul, dummied a pass and then sprinted through the defence to score the second try as the game approached the 20 minute mark. Bosch converted for a 14-nil lead.
Not five minutes later, captain Ward was back on the score sheet, putting immense pressure on the visitors’ last line of defence as they panicked under a physical onslaught and he managed to wrestle the ball away from the defender to score his second try and his team’s third. It was just reward – again – for his never-say-die attitude.
The Pumas managed their first score as the game approached the half hour mark, but their joy would have been short-lived after a strong 20m driving maul off an attacking lineout delivered the fourth try, hooker Kerron van Vuuren the man in possession with the centres adding their weight to the driving momentum that was built up.
The fifth try came just short of half-time, the Pumas conceding penalty after penalty and Bosch kicking to the corner to set up another attacking lineout. The throw was creative, sent to the front and the players managed to get over the line fairly effortlessly, Dylan Richardson the man in possession.
Bosch converted for a well-deserved 31-3 lead at the break and with a handy haul of five tries to none, the Cell C Sharks were well in command of the game. Although the half-time stats suggested that possession and territory were fairly evenly shared, it was the dominant Cell C Sharks forwards who had really impressed with their hard work and commitment and the gains they had made were deserved reward.
The opening 10 minutes of the second half proved scrappy, the Pumas having been read the riot act at the break and coming out the changerooms breathing fire. The fact that three penalties kicked to touch did not go out added to their frustration but they eventually came good with a pushover try.
Sbu Nkosi made his presence on the field and immediately had an impact, poaching the kick-off and scoring a try seconds later to cancel out the Pumas’ score to take the lead to 38-10 with 25 minutes of the game remaining.
The disjointed nature of the half continued with neither side really able to build momentum. The Pumas had a good period of attack where they were camped in the Cell C Sharks’ 22 but couldn’t make it count. They had an opportunity to send a quick attack out wide off a free kick, but a loose, long pass was well-read by man of the match Nkosi who made the interception and made a flambouyant dive over the tryline for his second and the team’s seventh. At 45-10 up, there was only going to be one winner.
Both sides gave the final minutes everything in their respective quests to score once more, but there was some determined and brave defence that prevented any further scoring.
Cell C Sharks captain Jeremy Ward said afterwards, “We wanted to come out of the blocks firing and we’re really happy to start the Carling Currie Cup with a bonus point win.”