The Sharks beat the Highlanders 42-20 on Friday in Dunedin – and their win defies logic as the statistics tell the story of near-total dominance by the home side.
The Sharks lost the battle for possession and territory; came second in the scrum and the lineout battles; handled and passed less, ran less metres with the ball, made more and missed more of their tackles, conceded more penalties, won only 36% of the rucks … and still won the match to make it two wins from two outings and a first victory on their four-match tour to Australasia
♦ How is that possible?
The Sharks followed the Rassie Recipe. They kicked the ball behind the Highlanders pack, pressurised them by limiting their space, and exploited the Highlanders mistakes with aggressive tackling followed by attack from the ensuing mistakes
The Highlanders countered with (not too accurate!) crosskicks to break the tackling stranglehold of the Sharks and this helped the Durban visitors to score from one of the misdirected efforts.
The Sharks lead 27-3 at the break by which time they had scored three tries between the 30th minute and the halftime hooter and added another two tries after the break by Aphelele Fassi, both of them in the last eight minutes.
♦ The moral of the story may well lie in the Sharks approach in this match and that of the Stormers against the Hurricanes last weekend. The Stormers had about two-thirds of the possession and territory and completely controlled matters but were loathe to use their backline despite a speedy back-three in Dillyn Lleyds, Seabelo Senatla and Sergeal Petersen.
Is the World Cup approach becoming a new blueprint for SA teams?
Time will tell!
Highlanders (3) 20: Tries: Dillon Hunt, Jona Nareki, Michael Collins. Conversion: Mitch Hunt. Penalty: Mitch Hunt.
Sharks (27) 42: Tries: James Venter, Makazole Mapimpi (2), Aphelele Fassi (2). Conversions: Curwin Bosch (4). Penalties: Bosch (3).