The Cell C Sharks fought off a determined challenge from the EP Kings to claim a 33-25 (half-time 18-10) victory in their Absa Currie Cup fixture at Growth point Kings Park in Durban on Saturday.
It was the Sharks’ opening victory of this season’s Currie Cup campaign after their opening day loss away to the Pumas last weekend.
But it was not the most convincing of victories and for parts of the second half it seemed possible the Kings could affect an upset.
But the home team managed to stand firm in the closing stages and claim their five match points, much to the relief of the team and coach Gary Gold.
It was a promising effort by the men from the Bay and the bonus point earned for four tries will give them confidence heading into the remainder of the competition.
The Sharks drew first blood with a penalty by fullback Joe Pietersen in the seventh minute. But the Kings were rewarded for some early pressure when flyhalf George Whitehead danced his way through the Sharks defence and sprinted towards the corner to score the opening try of the game in the 11th minute.
The Sharks hit straight back with a try of their own. Flyhalf Lionel Cronje executed a perfect cross-kick which was well-collected in the air by left wing Esterhuizen despite attention from Kings fullback Scott van Breda.
Two minutes later Cronje was also on the scoreboard with a try of his own after some fine interplay by the Sharks’ backs. Pietersen slotted the conversion and a further penalty six minutes later to give the home side an 18-5 lead.
With time up on the stadium clock in the first half, Sharks No 8 Philip van der Walt was shown a yellow card for slowing the ball down with the Kings on the attack.
Tim Agaba scored after a pick and go from the base of the resultant scrum, catching the Sharks defence napping and reducing the deficit to 18-10. Van Breda missed the easy conversion, rounding off a miserable effort from the fullback off the kicking tee in the first half.
Soon after the break, the one man down for the Sharks counted again as the Kings narrowed the score-line even more with a bulldozing try from lock Stevn Sykes. Whitehead, taking over the kicking duties from Van Breda, slotted the conversion to make it 18-17.
Minutes later, a storming run from Agaba set up scrumhalf Enrico Acker’s bonus-point try to put the Kings in the lead with the Sharks still with only 14 players.
With Van der Walt now back on the field, the Sharks started taking ascendancy again and in the 55th minute flank Daniel du Preez scored from a lineout drive to edge the Sharks ahead 23-22. But the lead changed hands twice again as Whitehead kicked a penalty just before the hour and Pietersen replied with another.
Kings Captain Luke Watson was substituted by Thembelani Bholi in the 59th minute.
It was developing into a ding-dong battle and it needed cool heads from the Kings if they wanted to upset the home team.
But it was the Sharks who scored next with replacement Paul Jordaan scoring in the corner and Pietersen adding the extras to secure the win.
- Cell C Sharks – Tries: Andre Esterhuizen, Lionel Cronje, Daniel du Preez, Paul Jordaan; Conversions: Joe Pietersen (2); Penalties: Joe Pietersen (3)
- EP Kings – Tries: George Whitehead, Tim Agaba, Steven Sykes, Enrico Acker; Conversion: George Whitehead; Penalty: George Whitehead
All 8 teams in the Currie Cup have played 2 matches each.
The team standings are:
- Vodacom Blue Bulls – 10 points
- Xerox Golden Lions – 10 points
- DHL Western Province – 9 points
- Cell C Sharks – 5 points
- Steval Pumas – 4 points
- Toyota Free State Cheetahs – 1 points
- Eastern Province Kings – 1 points
- ORC Griquas – 0 points