Rugby

Sharks keep Stormers at bay

22 April 2018 - 00:00 By LIAM DEL CARME

The pall that had descended over this game in the first 38 minutes mercifully lifted just before and after the break.
It was not a moment too soon with luminaries such as Springbok coach and general string-pulling high priest Rassie Erasmus and some of his coaching staff in attendance. He must have been aghast at what he witnessed here for most of the first half, but the match flickered to life in the second as the Sharks kept the Stormers at bay.
Redeeming qualities were few and far between in the first half with the sheer ferocity of the collisions debilitating whatever limited attacking intent these teams showed. Those collisions must have enthused Erasmus, but equally he may have felt those like personal body blows with commitments against Wales and England looming ever larger.
There was some star quality that occasionally emerged from the morass. Pieter-Steph du Toit stood tall, with ball and without it. He proved a useful carrier, particularly in the wider channels, and his impact in the tackle was keenly felt.
His range of influence goes wider however, and when he ankle-tapped Cameron Wright who looked to be in the clear, the Stormers suddenly found themselves in possession of a stray pass to Chris van Zyl. They recycled the ball, moved left where Damian de Allende and Raymond Rhule handled before Siya Kolisi burst upfield with intent.
His offload was sublime to the speeding Rhule, who dotted down under the posts.Jean-Luc du Preez was the most influential in a Sharks forward effort that eked out the metres, but at times looked a little one- dimensional. Thankfully for the hosts, their scrum grew stronger as the game wore on and they eventually ground out the win.
Thomas du Toit and Steven Kitshoff coming together made for gripping viewing. Lukhanyo Am was again incisive with the limited opportunities that came his way, but in general, the Sharks can thank their pack for getting the job done here. They had made it difficult for themselves, however.
Again the Sharks' inability to take command of the ball undermined their toil. Twice stray passes from the hosts gifted the Stormers opportunities.
A second-half yellow card to Stormers' scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage played into the hosts' hands. The Sharks, on the front foot for most of the match, seized their opportunity when Jean-Luc du Preez crashed over from a deft offload from brother Robert.
Earlier, though, there was an air of desperation in the manner both teams went about their business. Shackled by the fear of losing a match that could potentially hold grave consequences for the losers, they plodded along until the cusp of half ime.
It is an indictment of these highly paid athletes that the best moves before the start of the second half came from a loose-limbed security guard in front of the East Stand during the half-time break.
Sharks (3) 24
Stormers (7) 17
Sharks - Tries: Lukhanyo Am, Jean-Luc du Preez, Thomas du Toit; Conversions: Robert du Preez (3); Penalty: Du Preez.
Stormers - Tries: Raymond Rhule, Ramone Samuels; Conversions: Damian Willemse (2); Penalty: Willemse.

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