These two teams have already confused everyone with their form early in the year. The Hurricanes were held scoreless by the Stormers in a 27-0 loss and the Sharks being the most exciting South African outfit so far this season.
Both teams started with a bang and the Sharks were the first to get over the line. It was impressive to see the skills and decision making in the midfield between the two props. Sadly this was off the back of a forward pass from Aphelele Fassi.
The Sharks were a bit fortunate you would think to score the first try. It however on the back of their well organized and alert defense. Another great example of what a good defense can do… It is not just to keep opponents out.
The Hurricanes were however never going to sit back and let the Sharks bully them around. They had their number at the scrums and this set them up nicely to attack the Sharks.
Ill-discipline became a problem for the Sharks early on and the loss of both Mapimpi and Chamberlain within the first 20 minutes put the Sharks under immense pressure. The new makeshift flyhalf on the field, Sanele Nohamba, was never going to back down from the chance to get stuck into a high-pressure game again.
It was the same Nohamba who was responsible for some unconventional running lines taken in the midfield, which resulted in the Sharks scoring a 50-meter try… and then he stepped up casually to kick the extra 2 points!
The 17-17 half-time score was a relatively fair reflection of the exciting rugby played in the first half, but the Sharks were actually better value. The last 10 minutes was however full of handling errors, which prevented both teams from really finishing on their promising starts to the game.
By constantly infringing the Sharks kept the Hurricanes in the game and just after half-time the penalty count was already huge with 8 penalties conceded to 1.
This put the Sharks on the backfoot again which led to a Ben Lam try a few minutes later. For all the good work they were doing on defense and attack, the infringements were just too many and it hurt them.
This was followed by another well-executed cross-kick a few minutes later that put Lam in for his 2nd.
The monstrous Le Roux Roets (one of my new favorites) stepped onto the field and started to bring some real power and weight into the game. He showed some promising touches in the midfield as well. A skill that has become so important for a modern-day lock.
It was however Dane Coles that put the game to bed with a try from a driving mall in the 65th minute… after another penalty from the Sharks put the Hurricanes on attack.
It was really a game of relatively small margins, but they favored the Hurricanes. The Sharks were making errors that resulted in losing a lot of field position. The Hurricanes were making errors that sometimes caused turnovers, but that they recovered from quickly enough.
The Hurricanes were dominating the scrums through the first half and were really looking effective on attack. Their defensive organization was however not up to scratch and they looked less organized than you would expect from a New Zealand outfit.
It took some time for the combo of Perenara, Barrett, Laumape and Aso to really wake up.
The cross-kick worked effectively to Laumape was perfect, even though for a change it could not be attributed to Beauden Barrett. The Hurricanes were not showing huge signs of missing him in their lineup.
The team’s understanding however of how to execute it and score from it was clearly evident with two amazing tries from these kicks.
The good defense that they had in 2019 has just taken a step up. They understand the situations they are in on the field and react accordingly. With a Hurricanes backline like they were up against, you had to be on form defensively.
Aphelele Fassi is the most impressive player the Sharks has produced since Beast first put on a #1 jersey. He is definitely up there with some of the top fullbacks in the world. That in his first season!
Nahamba came on and made an instant impact in multiple facets of the game. This just raised the question again of why the hungry young talent is not given more opportunities? The same questions are being asked of Manie Libbok’s limited opportunities at the Bulls…
The Sharks are however rewriting the story of South African rugby by backing a number of youngsters. Hopefully, this becomes a trend with South African teams and we see a new wave of players taking the step up.
Hurricanes: Tyrel Lomax (3), Vaea Fifita (6), Du Plessis Kirifi (7), TJ Perenara (9), Ben Lam (11), Ngani Laumape (12), Vince Aso (13), Jordie Barrett (15)
Sharks: Ruben van Heerden (4), Hyron Edwards (5), James Venter (6), Andre Esterhuizen (12), Lukhanyo Am(13), Aphelele Fassi (15), Sanele Nohamba (22)
ThysRugby player of the game: Aphelele Fassi – he is playing with a maturity that far exceeds his 22 years on this planet. If he is not wearing green and gold by the middle of 2020, there is no justice in the world.
Top plays of the game
- The Sharks’ first (almost) try with the two props combining in midfield to go 30 meters and scoring next to the poles. The build-up through Fassi was immaculate.
- Midfield break by Nahamba which lead to a 50 meter try for the Sharks. Some good patience and focus to execute in the last 5 meters.
- The cross-kick that put Laumape in for the try. He did have some work to do to beat the last defender but did so with great ease.
- The thoroughly annoying and suffocating defense of the Sharks. Brilliantly executed.
- Cross-kick that put in Lam for his second try.
Hurricanes: The Hurricanes didn’t put in a vintage performance, but have come through a challenging first 2 weeks to really look like the class act we know they are. The chemistry of a number of the new combinations was not completely there yet but improved as the game wore on.
Sharks: The Sharks were devastating on defense and it was a delight to see. Their only real weakness on the day was some ill-discipline. They were also unlucky at times with the bounce of the ball favoring the Hurricanes.