Sharks finally finding confidence and consistency

James Lang of Edinburgh tackles Ethan Hooker of the Hollywoodbets Sharks during the United Rugby Championship match in Durban on Saturday
James Lang of Edinburgh tackles Ethan Hooker of the Hollywoodbets Sharks during the United Rugby Championship match in Durban on Saturday
Image: Steve Haag Sports

Sharks skipper Lukhanyo Am offered a wry smile when asked if he was pleased with his team’s performance after their 23-13 win against Edinburgh in the URC in Durban on Saturday. 

“Ja ... pleased with the result,” Am said after a brief pause. The Sharks played well, but their dominance was certainly not reflected on the scoreboard, with the three tries they scored the bare minimum they deserved for the enterprising endeavour.

“I'm really pleased that we didn't get frustrated after halftime after we dominated territory and possession. We started well after the turnaround, built pressure again and the players ripped into their work,” said Sharks coach John Plumtree.

“We were playing OK. We just didn't finish. We were held up a few times and the passes didn't always stick. The good thing is that it's something we can still work and improve on,”

Besides Aphelele Fassi’s stunning 50m try midway through the first half, the Sharks dominance up front had no further reward. In fact they ended the half with Edinburgh flyhalf Ben Healy slotting a penalty to narrow the home team’s lead to just four points and, more concerningly, Eben Etzebeth feeling uncomfortable because of a rib injury. 

Plumtree said the ailment requires further examination in the coming days, but there is a likelihood the double World Cup winner may be sidelined for a few weeks. 

If it's just some cartilage, as we're hoping, that would keep him out for around two to three weeks. But there's still some time to do tests and determine what exactly is wrong.”

In Etzebeth’s absence in the second half, Corne Rahl and Emile van Heerden both continued to deliver robust performances to maintain the home team’s ascendancy through the forwards, and eventually Edinburgh’s gutsy defence was breached. 

Am and Phepsi Bhuthelezi each scored tries to provide the reward their team’s performance deserved.

“The boys up front put in a big shift today, they gave us a good platform to play on the front foot,” said Fassi, who was named player of the match. 

Having picked up two wins in a row, after a season in which they have tested the patience of their supporters, the Sharks, one spot above bottom on the URC table, are looking ahead to the Challenge Cup next. 

“We are slowly building confidence and getting some consistency in our performances,” said Am.

They will face the Italian team Zebre in Durban next week.


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