In­jury con­cerns for Spring­bok stars af­ter New­lands clash

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - SPORT - WYNONA LOUW

Storm­ers 27 Sharks 16

THE Storm­ers’ vic­tory over the Sharks at New­lands last night was equally pleas­ing and frus­trat­ing.

It was pleas­ing to see them run in three tries to one, and frus­trat­ing be­cause their sea­son could very well have run a very dif­fer­ent course had they just man­aged to pro­duce more out­ings like this.

While Rob­bie Fleck’s team are out of the run­ning for a spot in the play­offs, the Sharks will have to rely on a big per­for­mance against the Jaguares next week for a chance of mak­ing it into the top eight to bear fruit.

It would be a bit naive to say that it was a com­plete per­for­mance by the Storm­ers, though, but it was a good one. Their game man­age­ment was good, they put the Sharks un­der pres­sure and what they did on at­tack was im­pres­sive, and they were rewarded with three stun­ning tries.

The Sharks, on the other hand, made way too many mis­takes and let a num­ber of op­por­tu­ni­ties go.

The Storm­ers have of course been dealt a lot of in­jury blows this sea­son, and they weren’t able to es­cape it for their last match ei­ther.

They had to make a late change and bring Josh Stander – played in only his sec­ond Su­per Rugby game – into the start­ing line-up as Jean-Luc du Plessis was a late with­drawal due to a hip in­jury.

While he failed to find touch with his clear­ance kicks a few times, the touches Stander added on at­tack, like his kick-passes and distribution, made him a de­cent ad­di­tion on the day.

The Storm­ers showed good rhythm on at­tack in the open­ing min­utes, but it was the Sharks who got on the score­board first af­ter fly­h­laf Robert du Preez kicked a penalty af­ter a knock-on by the Storm­ers.

The Storm­ers re­sponsed through in­side cen­tre Damian de Al­lende, who showed good vi­sion, hit the gap and ran a stun­ning line af­ter Stander did well af­ter a ruck to take the ball up flat be­fore send­ing a quick out­side pass. And De Al­lende’s off­load to Man-of-the-Match Cobus Wiese, who did well to run up in sup­port, put him away for a stun­ning con­verted try.

The Sharks pointed to the posts when­ever they had the chance, and in the 10th minute Du Preez made no mis­take to take his team to within one point of the hosts, and an­other ac­cu­rate strike in the first quar­ter took the score to 7-9.

As good as the Storm­ers looked in the open­ing few min­utes, it was the Sharks who were in con­trol from there on as they man­aged to turn their ter­ri­to­rial ad­van­tage into points.

The Sharks’ de­fence was su­perb and looked solid when the Storm­ers des­per­ately tried to get over the try line at the half-hour mark. And as good as the vis­i­tors’ de­fen­sive ef­fort was, some good de­ci­sion-mak­ing by the Storm­ers saw them swing a pass wide for out­side cen­tre EW Viljoen to force his way over for a con­verted try.

How­ever, as the clock ticked on and the Storm­ers con­tin­ued to show their hunger for the try line, the missed tack­les started creep­ing in from the men in black, while they also seemed to lack phys­i­cal grunt.

For the Storm­ers a good start was al­ways go­ing to be im­por­tant. Full­back Dil­lyn Leyds – who played in his 50th Su­per Rugby game – re­minded the crowd just how po­tent he is on the counter at­tack when he ex­ploited a clear­ance blun­der by the Sharks. The Spring­bok got the ball, be­fore spot­ting the space and swerv­ing past a num­ber of de­fend­ers be­fore he gave a clever off­load to Sikhum­buzo Not­she, who sent a dart­ing out­side ball to wing Ray­mond Rhule, who made sure they fin­ished off a top spell of play.

Be­fore half time, Stander, who had slot­ted all three his con­ver­sions, sent the penalty kick that would have given the Storm­ers a 15-point lead just wide to bring down the cur­tain on an en­ter­tain­ing first half, although it wasn’t without its mis­takes.

The sec­ond half in­tro­duced an en­er­gised Sharks team, and beau­ti­ful han­dling by Du Preez and full­back Curwin Bosch in ad­di­tion to suck­ing in the Storm­ers de­fend­ers saw Kobus van Wyk run in a con­verted try against his for­mer team­mates.

Both sides made use of their bench early and the im­pact of Spring­bok props Steven Kit­shoff and Wilco Louw could be seen in the scrums. And while their first scrum­mag­ing per­for­mance showed their qual­ity as they produced a mas­sive shove, there was also good com­pe­ti­tion in mid­field, and it was par­tic­u­larly pleas­ing to see De Al­lende add a few good mo­ments to a match that quickly turned into a high-tempo one. The Sharks’ des­per­a­tion to qual­ify and the Storm­ers’ ea­ger­ness to end on a high was def­i­nitely ev­i­dent.

But one no­table neg­a­tive was the num­ber of in­jury con­cerns that arose, par­tic­u­larly to the Spring­bok play­ers.

S’bu Nkosi, Thomas du Toit, Dan du Preez and De Al­lende all had to go off with in­juries.

In the last 20, Stander slot­ted a penalty that gave the Storm­ers an eight-point lead, and in the 70th minute, Du Preez – who had a per­fect kick­ing record up un­til then – hit the posts with the kick that would have taken them to within five points of the Storm­ers.

Although each team had a try dis­al­lowed ear­lier in the con­test, it was Lukhanyo Am’s no-try that the Sharks would have felt the most. In the 75th minute, af­ter do­ing well to beat the Storm­ers’de­fence on the out­side, Am lost the ball for­ward as he stretched out for the ground­ing, while Leyds chased him down and put in a des­per­ate tackle.

A penalty kick from right in front the posts by Stander in the 79th minute made sure that the Sharks had no chance of catch­ing up, and while that per­for­mance by the Storm­ers was a lit­tle too late, they man­aged to achieve their goal of end­ing on a positve note.

Tries: Cobus Wiese, EW Viljoen, Ray­mond Rhule Con­ver­sions: Josh Stander (3) Penal­ties: Stander (2)

Tries: Kobus van Wyk Con­ver­sions: Robert du Preez Penal­ties: Du Preez (3)

HENK KRUGER/ANA/ARICAN NEWS AGENCY

LIVEWIRE: The Storm­ers’ Dil­lyn Leyds im­pressed in his 50th Su­per Rugby appearance, as the hosts beat the Sharks at New­lands yesterday.

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