The Sharks beat the Lions 34-20 in a vital Currie Cup match in Johannesburg on Saturday thanks to two huge blunders by the home team’s flyhalf, Earl Rose, which let the visitors in for two tries at a crucial stage in the match.
The bonus-point win ensures that the Sharks, with one round to go, will end up on top of the Currie Cup log for a home semifinal and, should they win, also a home final. It also means that the Lions still have to get one more log point to ensure a semifinal place — and they will have to do that against Western Province at Newlands next Saturday.
In a shocking display of turning over good possession — he kicked away five good balls to the opposition — Rose also ”set up” two of the Sharks tries via a chip kick into the hands of Sharks flanker Jean Deyzel, and then a kick into the hands of JP Pietersen, who did well to kick ahead for an easy score.
Those 14 points in eight minutes when the Sharks were leading 17-13 were the death knell for the Lions, who should have been ahead at that stage, had it not been for the inept kicking performance by the selfsame Rose.
The Lions ran on to the field knowing that a single bonus point would secure a semifinal berth in the competition. They started off well and the first score went to Trompie Nontshinga after barely 12 minutes. Nontshinga had plenty of work to do for a classic winger’s try.
The try was followed some sustained pressure by the Sharks, but the Lions defence held. A second missed penalty by Ruan Pienaar after 17 minutes brought unjustified reprieve for the Lions and this was rubbed in by a third critical ruck turnover for the home side. A missed long-range drop kick by Francois Steyn added to the Sharks’ woes, but Pienaar deservedly pulled one back after 27 minutes (5-3).
A Rose penalty made the half-time score 8-3.
A great line move by the Sharks less than four minutes into the second half was completed by a Pietersen try after a strong run by Ryan Kankowski — but the credit must go to Deyzel, who had bumped off three Lions on the other side of the field before the ball was recycled.
With Pienaar converting, the Sharks were 10-8 to the good. Then came Heinke van der Merwe’s try from a line-out after some good play from Jaque Fourie (13-10).
Kankowski, after good skills by the Sharks forwards and Pietersen, sent replacement Deon Carstens over for a converted try for the Sharks to lead 17-13. Barely a minute later, Rose gave away the first of the two tries to the Sharks, which they rubbed in with a last-minute penalty by Pienaar.
Lions: Tries: Trompie Nontshinga, Heinke van der Merwe, Ernst Joubert. Conversion: Louis Strydom. Penalty: Earl Rose
Sharks: Tries: JP Pietersen (2), Deon Carstens, Jean Deyzel. Conversions: Ruan Pienaar (4). Penalties: Pienaar (2) — Sapa