Strong, Structured, Dominant

A commanding performance from the Hollywoodbets Sharks in their EPCR Challenge Cup Round of 16 knock-out clash against Zebre Parma saw them take a near-perfect, resounding 47-3 victory at Hollywoodbets Kings Park on Sunday.

Aside from an early score from the visitors, a completely dominant effort from the Hollywoodbets Sharks locked Zebre out of the game and they were never allowed to play, so complete was the intense and enduring pressure placed on them, from which they were unable to launch or find an answer to.

Zebre spent the opening five minutes enjoying majority of the possession and territory, working their way into the Hollywoodbets Sharks’ 22 before a patient build-up yielded a penalty, but no try, which they opted to kick for three points to open the scoring, although it would be one-way traffic from the Durban side for the rest of the half.

The Hollywoodbets Sharks struck almost immediately from the kick-off, Ethan Hooker making the initial break before feeding Siya Masuku who delivered an inside pass to Vincent Tshituka who showed a clean pair of heels to get in under the posts for a full-house seven-pointer following Masuku’s conversion.

Given the weather conditions, it was always going to be a tight, physical battle, especially at scrum time. Here, the all-Bok front row of Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi and Vincent Koch absolutely smashed the Italians.

It set the Hollywoodbets Sharks on a positive trajectory as they worked their way out of their half deep into Zebre territory, before a patient and clinical build-up was closed out by Werner Kok, working in tandem with his fellow wing Makazole Mapimpi with Masuku adding the two for a 14-3 lead as the game hit the second quarter.

Try number three came with five minutes of the half remaining, Corne Rahl stretching his legs and pumping through four tacklers to get over, thanks to another dominant scrum, power maul and then chip over the top from Masuku for captain Lukhanyo Am to chase – which he did successfully, before the young lock was fed possession and he made no mistake. Nor did Masuku with the conversion for a 21-3 lead.

There was no letting up from the home side, the forwards in imperious form as they set up the fourth try. Their maul softened up the Italians before the ball went to the backs and another smart kick from Masuku through the middle, stabbing a grubber into the strike zone for Aphelele Fassi to run onto and dot down, with Masuku adding the two for a 28-3 lead.

Head coach John Plumtree said on the eve of the game that given the conditions – and they did materialise – his forwards would need to stand up against the physicality of the visitors. They did that and more, dominating the scrums and mauls and it was a case of no letting up from the pack as Phepsi Buthelezi struck gold on the hour mark, going over for the fifth try after a powerful rolling maul set up the score, opening up a 30 point lead with 20 minutes left to play.

Five minutes later it was time for try number six, former SA Under 20 centre and a really promising talent, young Ethan Hooker getting a deserved try for his tireless efforts all game, this after a well-constructed and patient build-up, Masuku bringing up 40 points with the conversion.

Curwin Bosch had a try disallowed after receiving a forward pass, but two minutes later received a kick in his half and danced his way through the defence all the way to the tryline to score try number seven with five minutes remaining, and then converted from out wide as the Hollywoodbets Sharks threated 50 points against a completely outplayed Zebre side.

The victory was built off a quality team effort with the forwards dominating every aspect of the game, but for his all-round performance, Siya Masuku was named Player of the Match.