The Sharks passed an important test when they beat the Lions 25-12 at Ellis Park in Johannesburg at the weekend.
It was their first away victory of this year’s Super Rugby competition. Away victories have been difficult to come by for most of the teams – just 10 in 49 matches before this weekend’ Round Nine outings – and this triumph further confirmed the Sharks as one of the leading teams in the competition. The coastal side took four points from the match to open a nine-point gap between them and the Bulls, the nearest South African rival on the log, while they have two points over the second-placed Brumbies, and a game in hand.
While Sharks Director of Rugby Jake White believed his charges should have closed the match down sooner, he was nevertheless satisfied with their first away victory. “If you look at the competition generally teams don’t win away from home,” White told a post-match briefing, adding: “If you look at the nature of the competition it is very hard to get away wins. “So any away win, no matter if it is a home derby, or if people think the one team is stronger than the other, is significant.
” The sides went into the half-time break 6-all despite the Sharks dominating both in terms of territory and possession. “I am happy that we had to put everything into it to get the result, at 6-6 some teams would have let the home team take the advantage there,” White said. “I thought we played enough rugby to be better than 6-all at half-time, they got into our half twice in the first half and got six points, at that stage we had 70 percent possession and territory but we didn’t manage to finish off.
“Credit to them, they scrambled well [on defence], they covered well for each other and made it hard for us to get over the line.” The Sharks suffered an early setback when flyhalf Fred Zeilinga was forced off the field in the 18th minute with a hamstring strain.
“That was a really tough game and it took us a long time to score a try against a brilliant Lions defence,” said Sharks hooker and skipper Bismarck du Plessis. “We have made a good start to the season, but there is a long road ahead and the last five league games will be crucial.”