Challenge Cup series: Sharks destroy Pau

Henry

How does one explain that a rugby team loses one week with 10-44, but within seven days after that wins its next game, against a French team that is fourth in the top-14, with 45-5?

This is the story of the Sharks’ season, which was crushed by the Bulls in the United Rugby Championship last week, but underwent a metamorphosis on Saturday at Kingspark by beating Section Paloise (Pau) 45-5 in the European Challenge Cup series.

It also rained, but it could not stop the Sharks from scoring six great tries.

But now one wonders if teams, due to the exhausting season and travel arrangements, do not have certain home games in their sights and then cross their fingers that they will at least collect a few bonus points in away games?

Let’s look at the positives: The Sharks’ Lukhanyo Am and Eben Etzebeth (he was Player of the Match) make a very big difference. Their experience motivates the other players. Their vision creates opportunities and their skills lift the whole team.

That’s why Francois Venter, who was the captain in Am’s absence, is only now coming into his own.

The young lock Corné Rahl also benefits greatly from Etzebeth’s input. Rahl performed very well in the lineouts and broke away with the ball a few times like a defender.

The scrum half Grant Williams was very dangerous at times and Makazole Mapimpi got in some good runs.

Up front, the Sharks’ forwards dominated, with Coenie Oosthuizen, Oxe Nche, Etzebeth, Rahl, James Venter and Pepsi Buthelezi being on fire.

If the Sharks can build on this, there is a lot of light at the tunnel. They have skilled and fast backs and they have forwards who don’t have to back down. Not even for the Bulls.

Scorers: Sharks 45 (24): Tries: Lukhanyo Am (2), Eben Etzebeth (2), Makazole Mapimpi, Marnus Potgieter. Goals: Curwin Bosch (6). Penalty Goal: Bosch.

Pau 5 (5): Three: Gregoire Arfeuil.