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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Connacht make Shark fin soup out of John Plumtree’s hapless team

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The Sharks had only themselves to blame as they perpetually shot themselves in the foot in losing 12-13 to a tenacious Connacht at Kings Park in Durban on Saturday.

It was the Sharks’ fifth consecutive defeat in the United Rugby Championship and they remain firmly rooted to the bottom of the log after some terrible individual errors undid the overall team effort.

The Sharks should be encouraged to continue their commitment to play attacking rugby but that doesn’t mean key players should play stupidly in their own half.

There are times when you have to play for territory and not counter-attack for the sheer sake of it.

Play adventurously but not foolishly is surely the doctrine of coach John Plumtree, who witnessed enough coach-killing acts to be on his way to an early grave,

Even with their misguided efforts, the Sharks should have won this close encounter when replacement flyhalf Boeta Chamberlain had a sitter to win the match late in the game but failed.

The home team began with vigorous intent to move the ball but the organised Connacht defence prevented them from gaining ground, and when the ball went to the visitors for the first time on meaningful attack, they promptly scored when No 8 Sean O’Brien muscled over from close quarters.

Connacht missed just one tackle in the first half.

The Sharks remain bereft of their eight World Cup Springboks and it showed at times in a lack of composure. They certainly struggled in the lineouts, for example, where Eben Etzebeth is conspicuous in his absence in a second row with an average age of 21.

Connacht are without lethal attackers in Bundee Aki and Mack Hansen but they have Finlay Bealham back from World Cup duty and he made a difference in the set scrums.

Six members of the Sharks’ pack are under the age of 24, and they carried the ball with youthful exuberance but wily Connacht campaigners in O’Brien and Conor Oliver were effective at the breakdowns.

The Sharks forwards did get it right on the half-hour mark when the former Bok No 8, Sikhumbuzo Notshe barreled over off a set scrum but flyhalf Curwin Bosch missed the sitter of a conversion attempt and this hurt all the more when, from the kick-off, the Sharks gave away a penalty for JJ Hanrahan to nudge over for a 10-5 lead that would be the halftime score.

Bosch had rushed his kick when the referee had reminded him that he was running out of time on the shot clock.

There was a key moment ten minutes into the second half when Connacht lock Oisin Dowling was sin-binned for a foul in stopping a Sharks attack near the tryline and from the ensuing play, with the Sharks bravely taking a set scrum, right wing Werner Kok was freed for a clear run to the posts.

This time Bosch converted but 15 minutes from time, he tried to counter-attack from inside his half but was well tackled and Connacht won a penalty from the breakdown. Hanrahan nailed a beauty to inch his team into a 13-12 lead.

Bosch was pulled off and on came Boeta Chamberlain. Within two minutes he had a chance to regain the lead for the Sharks but he hooked his attempt across the uprights.

Point-scorers

Sharks 12 — Tries: Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Werner Kok. Conversions: Curwin Bosch (1).

Connacht 13 — Try: Sean O’Brien. Penalties: JJ Hanrahan (2). Conversions: JJ Hanrahan.

IOL Sport

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