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24 Feb 2008 08:09
After a pretty routine first half in which the Stormers, so magnificent in defence, had all but stolen a 10-0 lead over the Sharks in their Super 14 rugby match at Durban’s Absa Stadium, they gave away four late penalties to indiscipline and went down 12-10. Earlier the Sharks had missed three kicks at goal.
In contrast the Sharks, who really played most of the rugby, especially in the frenetic closing stages, grimly held on to their two-point advantage.
Perhaps the biggest culprit of all was probably a very angry Stormers flank Schalk Burger.
He was one of two Cape men sent to the sin bin by referee Kelvin Deaker and was at the forefront of another penalty decision against them when the Stormers were staging a last-second rally in a bid to secure a late score.
The other Stormers ban, sent off for 10 minutes, was Dylan Des Fountain after a series of borderline professional fouls.
As rugby games go, the Sharks had the better of the exchanges but they had to work hard to get the ball from setpieces as the Stormers defenders threw everything into their task.
Sharks captain Johann Muller said afterwards that the pace of the game was a real test of stamina—far more indeed than in a whole week of practice.
Burger could be in hot water for showing dissent to the touch judge who had first attracted referee Deaker’s attention to what was considered unfair tactics, to say the least. He left the field showing clear signs of annoyance and indicated to the line man that he had not seen what exactly had transpired.
Although the crowd of 29 000 was below expectation, probably because of threatened road closures around the ground because of the South African A1 Grand Prix, they were loud of voice as they encouraged the try-less Sharks to as tough a victory as one could imagine.
And as good as the Stormers defence was on the day, so too was that of the Sharks when it really mattered, even though they conceded the only try to scrumhalf Ricky Januarie as well as a conversion and a penalty by flyhalf Peter Grant.
There was one moment of pure genius on the part of French flyhalf Frederic Michalak as he chased down Peter Grant to tackle him from behind while he streaked towards the Sharks try line.
The new Sharks flyhalf also showed some clever touches with shrewd kicks into the open zones and swift sidesteps that caused a few jitters for the Stormers at times.
In essence, it was tough for the men from the Cape to go down for a second week in a row to a South African side. But they will surely come back much wiser as the competition hots up.—Sapa
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