The return of Sharks captain Lukhanyo Am was a timely boost as the travelling side saw out a successful Australasian tour by hammering the Reds 33-23 in their backyard.
The Sharks will return to South Africa having won three from four games on tour and having done so emphatically. Aside from a loss against the Hurricanes, in which both Mapimpi and Chamberlain were off in the first 20 minutes and the remainder of the game was played with a scrum-half at flyhalf, the Sharks hammered the Highlanders 42-20, the Rebels 36-24 and finished off with a 33-23 win over the Reds.
What has been so impressive is the Sharks unfaltering pressure on defence, tirelessly implementing a rush-defence tactic, even until the 88th minute of the Reds game. They have then been able to, unlike many other sides, turn that pressure into points, with long distance tries and running from broken play characterising the Sharks’ attack. With the Sharks behind 11-8 at half time, they just grew and grew in the second half and showed superior fitness and finesse in putting the Reds away. The Reds secured their last try in the 88th minute as the Sharks could have ended the game on 80 but put in a gutsy overtime shift to try and secure a bonus point try.
Captain Lukhanyo Am’s return was integral, scoring an intercept try to take the game out of reach, and being ever present on defence, leading the backline’s defensive alignment and rush efforts. Sikhumbuzo Notshe was brilliant from the back of the scrum and in broken play and seems to be going from strength to strength as South Africa’s best number 8 so far this tournament. Curwin Bosch was equally impactful dictating play and directing points and territory with his boot. The Sharks back three continues, even in the absence of Springboks Sbu Nkosi and Makzole Mapimpi, to be threatening on attack and organised on defence.
Individuals have proved brilliant for the Sharks over the course of their tour, but it is the collective team effort that has characterised their enjoyable rugby. Currently, they are one of the premier forces in the tournament and they look set to continue in the same vein upon their return to South Africa.
Tries: Henry Speight, Tate McDermott, Ed Craig
Conversion: Jock Campbell
Penalties: Campbell (2)
Tries: Kerron van Vuuren, Dylan Richardson, Lukhanyo Am, Madosh Tambwe
Conversions: Curwin Bosch (2)
Penalties: Bosch (3)