Sharks book a quar­ter­fi­nal spot against Cru­saders

Sunday Times - - Sport Rugby - By KHANYISO TSHWAKU

● The Sharks made heavy weather of their 20-10 tri­umph against the Jaguares but it booked them a quar­ter­fi­nal spot.

Un­like last week, they made the most of the Rebels’ 43-37 loss against the High­landers but they weren’t con­vinc­ing.

The Jaguares, al­ready as­sured of a play­off, will face the Lions and the Sharks earned a date with the Cru­saders in Christchurch. The de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons are un­beaten at home.

The Sharks have an out­stand­ing record against New Zealand sides this year but the Cru­saders haven’t dropped a game at home in two years and have lost just six home matches in five years.

One of those de­feats was against the Sharks in 2014, one of only two South African Su­per Rugby wins in the South Is­land rugby strong­hold in 22 years.

The Cru­saders haven’t dropped a game at home in two years

While the cold, wet con­di­tions weren’t con­ducive to flu­ent rugby, the Sharks strug­gled to put to­gether mean­ing­ful mo­men­tum against a sec­ond-string Jaguares.

De­spite their dis­ap­point­ing loss to the Bulls last week, the Jaguares gave their bench a de­cent run know­ing a sterner test awaits at El­lis Park.

While they clearly lacked mo­ti­va­tion, they made up for that with rea­son­able en­deav­our as they dominated the sta­tis­tics.

They did not have a try to show for their first-half ef­forts but were robbed of a penalty try in the 39th minute when Cur­win Bosch clearly held back Ma­tias Moroni af­ter the Sharks coughed up posses­sion in their own half. The ball nar­rowly beat Moroni to the dead-ball line and the Sharks breathed a mas­sive sigh of re­lief.

Amaz­ingly, the Sharks scored the only try of the first half through ex­plo­sive hooker Akker van der Merwe in the 22nd minute while they were a man down.

While Van Der Merwe broke away from a maul to score, No 8 Daniel du Preez was sin­binned for a chop-tackle on Jaguares lock To­mas La­vanini.

The scrappy na­ture of the game didn't change in the sec­ond half even though the sides scored bril­liant tries.

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