Please don’t applaud or celebrate a team losing 71-31. To do so is to insult the Sharks. It isn’t a compliment, writes Mark Keohane.
The Sharks lost 54-7 to the British & Irish Lions in Johannesburg on Wednesday evening and another Sharks XV lost 71-31 in Pretoria on Saturday evening.
The tourists looked as disinterested as the Sharks C team looked motivated in the first half and that made for a fascinating contest, in which both teams gifted the other two tries and each team created two other respective scores.
There are 10 Sharks first choice players missing through injury or national Springbok commitments. There were another 13 who started against the Lions in the 54-7 defeat who didn’t start at Loftus. So, that means that the Sharks match 23 who lost 71-31 to the Lions was missing an entire match day squad.
No one expected anything but another 50 pointer and at worst, a 50 point differential. Through all the craziness of the first 45 minutes, the end result was a 40 point differential and the Lions responded from being down 26-19 after 36 minutes to win 71-31. They won the last 44 minutes by 52-5.
The Sharks lost scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse to a red card on 45 minutes, with the scores tied 26-all. The scrumhalf, all 70 kilograms of him, landed the most cowardly attempt of an elbowed punch on the head of the head of a Lions player, with the ball out of play and the players in a heap on the sideline. It was a moment as stupid as it was suicidal to any hope his teammates may have had of being competitive.
It would have been a challenge to beat the Lions if every Sharks player was available, but to play them with a man down was only going to end one way, and it did.
There has to be perspective to all the Lions warm-up matches. These South African provincial outfits are fodder for the international players in the Lions squad. The world champion Springboks will be a different beast.
Of the Lions team that started in Pretoria, there won’t be more than five starting the first Test in Cape Town on 24th July, that is assuming we get to the first Test in this Covid ravaged tour.
The Lions are a quality squad, made up of some of the best players in the world, but they have played no one in South Africa in swatting aside the Lions, the Sharks and the Sharks reserves.
The Boks had a ‘koppestamp’ against Georgia in winning 40-9 on 2nd July, and have spent the best part of the last week in isolation because of Covid infections. The home team’s preparations haven’t been ideal but they have history to lean on, in terms of match day selection and familiarity, and they have scaled the highest peak as a unit in winning the 2019 World Cup.
In my book, that makes them the more settled team for that opening Test against a Lions starting XV that may only play together for the first time at the Cape Town Stadium on the 17th July, when they front the SA ‘A’ team, which are the 23 blokes who would have doubled as tackle bags for the Test 23 in the past month.
The SA ‘A’ game will give us the first insight into these Lions, but it will only be after the first Test that there will be any conviction in knowing their strength.
For now, they predictably manhandled the kids who have been the starter to the Test series main course.
Understand that, thank the kids for coming, but don’t celebrate their spirit and tenacity when they give up 71 points. That is an even bigger insult than the result because we aren’t clapping off an under 15 D team, who have played an A team, we are reporting on a professional team, whose players get paid to play the game.
Watch Jaden Hendrikse’s red card moment of stupidity
Hero to zero moment for Jaden Hendrikse pic.twitter.com/Ou0FlMd6Ju
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) July 10, 2021