Sharks ruthlessly grind Rebels
The Sharks beat a predictable path in subduing the Melbourne Rebels in Durban yesterday.
They went the confrontational route, kept bashing, and eventually wore down the Rebels in a match that arrested their mini slump of conference defeats to the Stormers at home and the Bulls away.
The benefit of a bye however allowed them to reset, and though they weren't firing on all cylinders, they did enough to quell the Rebels.
The visitors were again full of trickery and invention but simply lacked the white-knuckle grunt to compete with the Sharks.
They again showed poor discipline, especially in the first half. Against the Lions a week earlier they conceded a whopping 20 penalties and only one went their way.
That left coach Dave Wessels incredulous and he would have felt similar sentiment at the break. The Rebels could have done with the experience of Will Genia and captain Dane Haylett-Petty, who both sat out.
That they were only two points down at the break having conceded nine penalties is testament to their ability to absorb pressure and to attack space when they had a sniff.
Sharks flyhalf Robert du Preez, who has operated at 80% success off the kicking tee this season, could have handed the hosts a bigger lead at half-time but his penalty just before the break drifted wide right.
There was an early show of force from the Sharks. From a lineout maul they hit left with Andre Esterhuizen predictably committing defenders before a rushing Dan du Preez bounced out of a tackle or two as first receiver after the ensuing ruck.
It was a sign of things to come.
Though they were being knocked back in the collisions the Rebels, in the first half, probed intelligently and had a measure of success.
Expecting a driving maul from the Rebels from a lineout 5m out, the Sharks were caught napping on the other flank and some dextrous passing to the left found wing Tom English in acres of space. He ran in unchallenged to bring his side within striking distance of the Sharks.
Visiting flyhalf Quade Cooper delivered another well-executed pass allowing Jack Maddocks to speed into a gap before rounding the last defender.
After weathering an initial second-half storm the Sharks took control. Their backs, Louis Schreuder, Robert du Preez, Esterhuizen and Makazole Mapimpi became more involved and the Rebels spent much of that half on the back foot.
Mapimpi was denied a sparkling second try after his effort was ruled out due to substitute Marius Louw's needless dangerous tackle before the Sharks had turned the ball over. Louw was sinbinned but he may face further sanction.
Sharks - Tries: Dan du Preez, Robert du Preez, Makazole Mapimpi. Conversions: Robert du Preez (2). Penalties: Robert du Preez (3).
Rebels: Tries: Tom English, Jack Maddocks. Conversions: Quade Cooper (2)...