Sharks beat Bulls to win Currie Cup

The Sharks deservedly won the Absa Currie Cup for the first time since 1996 when they beat the Blue Bulls in a hard, uncompromising final in Durban on Saturday after leading 7-3 at halftime.


It was a final; up there with the best as far as commitment goes.


Trailing 9-14 with just 30 seconds to go, the Blue Bulls were attacking in a wave reminiscent of their unlikely win last year when they beat the Sharks well after the hooter had gone.

 

But an accidental offside ruling put paid to their comeback hopes.

The Sharks scored two good tries to nil in their first win after four lost finals since 1996.


Despite both sides playing it tight and safe in the first half, the spectators were never starved of action and excitement in a match where the Sharks’ forwards were just too good for the Blue Bulls.


It took 23 minutes of thrust and counter-thrust, with the Sharks slightly the better because of their greater urgency to the point of breakdown, before the scorers were troubled.


It followed a run by JP Pietersen after yet another aborted intercept attempt by the Bulls, with Ruan Pienaar dummying from the ensuing ruck to break through and stretch for the line after the tackle.


At 7-0, the Sharks were deservedly ahead but an immediate penalty by Morne Steyn made it 7-3, perhaps a truer reflection of the play at that stage.


The Sharks had a very narrow escape in the 20th minute when a pass by Francois Steyn was intercepted by Bryan Habana who set off on an 80-metre run – but an ankle tap from Frederic Michalak slowed him down and enabled Steyn to run the speedster down metres from the tryline.


There was not much running rugby as is to be expected from a final, although both sides initially tried to take it wide after breakdowns.


The Sharks looked more dangerous because of the Bulls’ habit to go for the inside man rather than their direct opponent, and Pietersen and Odwa Ndungane were given good leeway.


The Sharks’ Pienaar, never the surest of goal kickers, missed three of his four attempts at the posts in the first half which theoretically cost his side nine points.


Steyn missed one of his two kicks but would have been pleased with his second strike after his nightmare at Absa Stadium in the league match a month ago.


The scrums were even and the only turnover at a lineout was through a skew out-in by the Blue Bulls.


The breakdowns belonged to the Sharks, albeit it just, and both sides tested their opposing back triangles with high kicks where both Sharks veteran Stefan Terblanche and a fearless Zane Kirchner came off with full marks at fullback.


The Sharks turned 7-3 ahead, but this lasted only two minutes after the break when Steyn put over a drop from some 46 metres out (7-6).


The Sharks, who had been pressing for some time and had the Bulls on the rack on one or two occasions, broke the deadlock after 20 minutes when Michalak’s fancy footwork wrong footed the Bulls’ defence. It went wide for Frans Steyn to eventually round off. Michalak converted (14-6).


Steyn pulled three points back immediately after the restart and at 14-9 the Blue Bulls were still very much in it – but the Sharks had full control and the escapes by the Bulls were nothing more than just that.


Some hasty, inaccurate passing on their own line underlined the pressure on the visitors.


The Bulls ran the ball more often in the last quarter as they tried to narrow the gap, but seldom looked as if they would score with most of their efforts coming from deep within their own half.


Francois Steyn got the Man of the Match award, but if could well have gone to a number of players from either side.

 

The two fullbacks in particular did very well in such a tight match while the Sharks’ forwards – all of them plus the replacements – were outstanding as a un

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