The Sharks scored 28 unanswered points in the second half to secure a 43-8 bonus-point win over the Kings on Saturday.
A small crowd of just under 11,000 turned up at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on a beautiful Port Elizabeth day, with the poor turnout perhaps a reflection of the turmoil that has beset the Kings’ build-up to their Super Rugby return.
Yet despite the off-field struggles the Kings have endured. They produced a gutsy performance in the first half, and displayed the sort of fighting spirit they will desperately need this season.
Ultimately, they were simply outclassed over the duration of 80 minutes, with the Sharks eventually wearing the Kings down and then turning on the style in a second half that they completely dominated.
Although the Sharks only led 15-8 at the break, they started the second half with intent and accuracy, and two quick-fire tries by the outstanding Willie le Roux and Paul Jordaan soon after the restart suddenly opened up a 21-point cushion.
Lwazi Mvovo and Odwa Ndungane also scored before the finish as the Sharks punished the Kings, with their resolve finally fading.
The Kings did make an impressive start to the clash, with an early statement when captain Steven Sykes boldly opted to kick a penalty to the corner rather than posts. He received just reward when flank Chris Cloete scored from the back of a rolling maul.
Yet despite battling to execute some of their basics, the Sharks finally managed to break down the Kings’ defence when a bit of magic from Cobus Reinach and Le Roux enabled Ndungane to canter over for their first try in the 17th minute.
With the score still surprisingly deadlocked at 8-8 after half an hour, impressive flanker Jean-Luc du Preez then managed to power over the tryline to edge the Sharks into a seven-point lead that they’d hold onto until half-time.
Nevertheless, the Kings would have been thrilled to find themselves still very much in the game at the break, with the hosts having displayed plenty of guts and gumption, while the Sharks lacked the necessary patience and discipline to pull away. However, they did just that in a one-sided second half.
Kings – 08
Try: Chris Cloete
Penalty: Elgar Watts.
Sharks – 43
Tries: Odwa Ndungane (2), Jean-Luc du Preez, Willie le Roux, Paul Jordaan, Lwazi Mvovo.
Conversions: Joe Pietersen (5).
Kings – 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Luzuko Vulindlu, 13 JP du Plessis, 12 Shane Gates, 11 Malcolm Jaer, 10 Elgar Watts, 9 Ntando Kebe, 8 Jacques Engelbrecht, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 JC Astle, 4 Steven Sykes (c), 3 Tom Botha, 2 Martin Ferreira, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Subs: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Louis Albertse, 19 Schalk Oelofse, 20 Cyril-John Velleman, 21 Leighton Eksteen, 22 Louis Fouché, 23 Charles Radebe.
Sharks – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Joe Pietersen, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Beast Mtawarira (c).
Subs: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 David McDuling, 20 Philip van der Walt, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 Garth April, 23 S’bura Sithole.
Referee: Jaco van Heerden (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Rodney Bonaparte (South Africa), AJ Jacobs (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)