The Sharks started their Currie Cup title defence with a bang as they cruised to a dominant 35-16 victory over the Blue Bulls in their clash in Durban on Saturday.
The Blue Bulls drew first blood with a penalty from flyhalf Francois Brummer but the home side replied with converted a try to their flyhalf Frederic Michalak who dived over in the corner after the Sharks had set up an attacking line-out.
Two more penalties from the boot of Brummer put the Blue Bulls back in front at 9-7 after the Sharks were penalised for going offsides and committing a deliberate infringement at a ruck. However, the Sharks hit the lead again when Michalak kicked a penalty after a scrum infringement from the Blue Bulls.
The home team then stretched that lead thanks to a moment of brilliance from Michalak. The Sharks got on the front foot and won a penalty in the Blue Bulls 22 when the French playmaker spotted right wing Louis Ludik unmarked on the left touchline. He then put in a pinpoint cross-kick and Ludik crashed over in the corner for a great opportunistic try before the Blue Bulls knew what had hit them.
The Sharks struck a big blow just before the break when scrumhalf Ross Cronje threw a dummy and found some space before offloading to Jacques Botes on his inside. Botes found his captain Keegan Daniel who shifted it to Marcell Coetzee and he crossed for the try under the posts unopposed. Michalak's simple conversion took the score to 22-9 in favour of the hosts at half-time.
The visitors put the Sharks under some serious pressure early in the second half after a Stefan Terblanche clearance was charged down in the 22, and they were finally rewarded when Derick Kuün busted his way through the attempted tackle from Meyer Bosman. Brummer's conversion made it 22-16 as the Blue Bulls moved to within striking distance.
The Sharks then surged upfield and spent some time camped on the Blue Bulls tryline before Daniel muscled his way over and grounded the ball to register the bonus point for the home team with half an hour left on the clock.
The Blue Bulls then launched a sustained period of attack but the Sharks tackled their hearts out and refused to let them over the line. When the hosts did break out of their 22 they surged upfield and were awarded a penalty which Michalak kicked over to make it 32-16 with 15 minutes left.
The France international added another three points with five minutes left and the the Sharks held on to their 35-16 lead, sealing a dominant start to their Currie Cup title defence.
Man of the match: Sharks flyhalf Frederic Michalak gave an assured performance and his class showed through more than a few deft touches. His quick thinking resulted in Ludik's try and he gave a solid goal-kicking display to keep the scoreboard ticking for the hosts.
For the Sharks:
Tries: Michalak, Ludik, Coetzee, Daniel
Cons: Michalak 3
Pens: Michalak 3
For the Bulls:
Pens: Brummer 3
Sharks: 15 Stefan Terblanche, 14 Louis Ludik, 13 Marius Joubert, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Mark Richards, 10 Frederic Michalak, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Keegan Daniel (captain), 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Ross Skeate, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Eugene van Staden.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Jan Andre Marais, 19 Francois Kleinhans, 20 Jacobus Reinach, 21 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 22 Sibusiso Sithole.
Blue Bulls: 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Stephan Dippenaar, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 Akona Ndungane, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Dustin Jinka, 8 Gerrit-Jan van Velze, 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Derick Kuün, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Fudge Mabeta, 3 Rossouw de Klerk, 2 Gary Botha (captain), 1 Corné Fourie.
Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Okkie Kruger, 19 CJ Stander, 20 Lohan Jacobs, 21 Marnitz Boshoff, 22 Francois Venter.
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant referees: Lourens van der Merwe, Phillip Bosch
TMO: Shaun Veldsman
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