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The Sharks retained their unbeaten record in the 2016 Currie Cup competition with a well-taken 26-19 win over a spirited Blue Bulls side at Kings Park, Durban, on Saturday.
In their first three games this season, they managed as many bonus-point victories against the Pumas, Griquas and Boland Cavaliers but this time, their attacking prowess was curtailed by stout defence from the visiting Blue Bulls.
Man-of-the-Match Curwin Bosch, the Sharks fullback deservedly won the award for his 21-point contribution via a try, two conversions, three penalties and a drop goal.
The Sharks need some time to get into their stride and they were bombarded by troublesome box kicks from the Piet van Zyl, the Bulls scrumhalf, during the opening 20 minutes. There was also a fair bit of upfield kicking from the Sharks although their ploy was not as effective.
A powerful driving maul laid the platform for the Bulls’ opening score in the 10th minute. After taking play some eight metres forward the Bulls leftwing Jamba Ulengo was put in possession in a central midfield position and powered his way past several would-be defenders to score next to the posts. Bulls flyhalf Tian Schoeman converted for a 7-0 lead.
As play wound its course towards the end of the first half the Bulls enjoyed a 10-6 lead after Schoeman added a penalty and the 19-year-old Sharks fullback Curwin Bosch was twice on target with penalty attempts.
Bulls flank Ruan Steenkamp has yellow-carded for a tip tackle in the 32nd minute and a few minutes later the Sharks capitalised heavily on the one-man advantage with eighthman Philip van der Walt leading the way with a powerful run upfield.
First, lock Ruan Botha scored a controversial try which TMO Marius Jonker was called on to adjudicate and Bosch added a conversion and a drop goal on the stroke of halftime to give the Sharks a 16-10 lead at the break.
Ten minutes into the second half, Schoeman reduced the deficit to three points with his second penalty (16-13).
There were far fewer tactical kicks in the second half and instead the teams showed far more attacking intent. After the Sharks secured a turn-over from breakdown play halfway line, leftwing Lwazi Mvovo joined the fray and streaked through a gap before sending the ball wide. Two passes later Bosch dived over in the corner and then converted splendidly from the touchline to open a 10-point lead in the 55th minute (23-13).
By the 66th minute, the Bulls had managed to keep the Sharks at bay while their sharp-shooter Schoeman rifled two more penalties to keep the visitors in the picture (23-19).
There was a strong finish by the Bulls but Bosch had the final say in the closing stages with a third penalty, taking his points haul in the match up to 21 points.
Final Score Sharks 26 (16) Blue Bulls 19 (10)
Tries: Ruan Botha, Curwin Bosch.
Conversions: Bosch (2).
Penalties: Bosch (3).
Drop goal: Bosch
Try: Jamba Ulengo.
Conversion: Tian Schoeman.
Penalties: Schoeman (4)
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