The Sharks opened their 2016 Vodacom Super Rugby campaign on a winning note, dispatching the Southern Kings in emphatic fashion with a 43-8 victory on Saturday afternoon.
The match, played in glorious sunshine that bathed the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth, was an opportunity to lay a marker about how the Cell C Sharks want to play and what they want to achieve.
The score line will suggest one way traffic in the visitors’ favour, but they had to contend with a concerted first half effort from the home team before they cut loose in the second half when they scored five unanswered tries.
The Kings drew first blood, Chris Cloete being driven over from close quarters off an attacking lineout, but it wasn’t long after the Cell C Sharks’ attack, having shown some enterprising work earlier, finished off a lovely move, Odwa Ndungane cantering over for the equaliser.
The match was evenly poised, reflected in the score-line by the half hour mark – eight points apiece – with neither side really able to steal the advantage. While the Kings kept the ball amongst their forwards and mauled with a measure of success, the Cell C Sharks looked to inject pace into their attack.
They were rewarded with a second try, on debut for Jean-Luc du Preez who showed great strength to power through the defence. The successful conversion pushed them seven points clear. The Kings might have felt they still had a sniff of remaining in the game, but it was never on the cards from then on.
Elgar Watts had an opportunity on the stroke of half-time to narrow the gap, but his penalty shot went wide with the Cell C Sharks leading 15-8 at the break. It had been a half of uncompromising rugby, both teams laying into each other at the physical exchanges, with the visitors perhaps shading the home team as far as attacking rugby goes.
Their attacking intent was rewarded a minute into the second half, Willie le Roux’s prowess evident as he scythed through the defence and raced his way to the tryline, thanks to turnover ball and some strong carrying by the forwards.
It was the perfect start and at 22-8 up, the Cell C Sharks had taken control of the game. Importantly, the bonus point was beckoning, especially with the new ruling that a team must score three tries more than the opposition to qualify.
The bonus point was theirs not five minutes later when Paul Jordaan ran the ideal line and received the perfect pass from his flyhalf that put him into the space necessary for the fourth try.
A fifth try, this time to Lwazi Mvovo, and coming off some slick passing and interplay between backs and forwards, showed how much the Cell C Sharks were growing in confidence as the game progressed.
A second try to Odwa Ndungane in the closing minutes of the match edge his team towards the 50 point mark. There was to be no half century of points, but that’s purely academic.
Ultimately a win first match up, a bonus point secured, and away from home, will put plenty of smiles on the team and management’s faces at a job not just completed, but well done.
Kings – Try: Chris Cloete. Penalty: Elgar Watts
Sharks – Tries: Odwa Ndungane (2), Jean-Luc du Preez, Willie le Roux, Paul Jordaan, Lwazi Mvovo. Conversions: Joe Pietersen (5). Penalty: Pietersen
15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Luzuko Vulindlu, 13 JP du Plessis, 12 Shane Gates, 11 Malcolm Jaer, 10 Elgar Watts, 9 Ntando Kebe, 8 Jacques Engelbrecht, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 JC Astle, 4 Steven Sykes (captain), 3 Tom Botha, 2 Martin Ferreira, 1 Schalk Ferreira
Substitutes: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Louis Albertse, 19 Schalk Oelofse, 20 Cyril-John Velleman, 21 Leighton Eksteen, 22 Louis Fouche, 23 Charles Radebe
15. Willie le Roux, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Paul Jordaan, 12. Andre Esterhuizen, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Joe Pietersen, 9. Cobus Reinach, 8. Daniel du Preez, 7. Jean-Luc du Preez, 6. Marcell Coetzee, 5. Hyron Andrews, 4. Etienne Oosthuizen, 3. Coenie Oosthuizen, 2. Franco Marais, 1. Tendai Mtawarira (captain)
Substitutes: 16. Kyle Cooper, 17. Juan Schoeman, 18. Lourens Adriaanse, 19. Dave McDuling, 20. Philip van der Walt, 21. Michael Claassens, 22. Garth April, 23. S’bura Sithole
All Photos: Zane Hobson