The Lions’ seven game winning streak over the Sharks was broken as the latter kept their slim playoff hopes alive with a 31-24 win at Kings Park. The result also means that the Jaguares, who beat the Stormers 25-14 later in the evening in Argentina, could leapfrog the Lions at the top of the South African conference (Lions 41 with 1 to play, Jaguares 38 with two to play).
Poor Lions substitutions:- Perhaps the turning point of the game for the Lions. The Joburg side had set piece dominance over the Sharks, especially at scrum time, and were absolutely bossing the home side for around 55 minutes.
Then, with the Lions camped near the Sharks line, Swys decided for a front row change, and the tide changed in the Sharks’ favour. The home side were able to win a scrum penalty, and the Lions’ set piece advantage was negated for the next twenty minutes.
Poor game management:- As mentioned before, the Lions dominated this game for 55 minutes, with the Sharks left to feed on scraps going forward and having to defend for their lives. However, the visitors opted not to take several kickable shots at goal, perhaps feeling that a bonus point was on at 21-11 (3 Lions tries to one of the Sharks), and that proved to be costly at the end.
Marx v Akker:- This game was effectively one between Malcolm Marx and Akker van der Merwe. Former Lions hooker Akker was one of the best Sharks players on show, and did everything he could to keep his side in the game before being replaced by Chiliboy Ralepelle.
Sharks dig deep for win:- The Sharks lost key loosie Jean-Luc du Preez to injury early in the game. Their early defence wasn’t great either- Lions flanker Cyle Brink should’ve never been allowed to brush aside Makazole Mapimpi and Cameron Wright the way he did for the Lions’ second try. However, the defence was on their own line was far much better, and coupled with the Lions’ poor decision making, kept them in the game.
On attack, the Sharks’ offload game didn’t work in the first half, with handling errors and turnovers robbing them of momentum. It improved after the hour mark, and they were also aided by a gift intercept from Harold Vorster.
Another impressive Sharks player was centre Andre Esterhuizen, the newly capped Springbok who scored a crucial try- his defence was key.
Sharks need another eighth man:- Daniel du Preez hasn’t had the same impact as his twin and the Sharks, who could once boast of unparalleled loose forward depth (remember the days of Coetzee, Alberts, Deysel, Kankowski, Daniel and Botes?), are now scraping the barrel here.
if Duane Vermeulen wants to be in South Africa for the 2019 season, the Sharks should probably attempt to sign him. He would solve their eighth man woes, and with his pilfering abilities, would help the unbalanced Sharks loose trio, who currently have no one really good at effecting turnovers.