The Sharks were held to a 24-24 draw with the Waratahs in an error-ridden Super Rugby contest at Kings Park in Durban on Saturday.
The hosts, coming off the back of a bye in Round Two, were looking for their first win of the season following their 26-19 season-opening loss at the hands of the Lions. The ‘Tahs on the other hand, were in search of a second win in as many weeks after beating the Stormers 34-27 in Sydney seven days earlier.
The Sharks scrum was dominant throughout the contest – and certainly much-improved from their display in Johannesburg a fortnight ago – while their new-found offloading philosophy, though clearly still a work in progress, made for some exciting viewing.
The Durbanites got off to a less than convincing start, however, when they conceded to ‘Tahs scrum-half Jake Gordon inside the opening five minutes. Robert du Preez pulled three back for the hosts before some hard, direct running – as well as a nifty offload or two – resulted in a try for Lukhanyo Am under the sticks.
Defence was an obvious problem area for the Australians, particularly in the first-half, with the 2014 champions missing as many as 13-tackles in the opening 40-minutes. Still, though, they managed to keep the scoreboard ticking via a Foley penalty.
A lack of clear evidence denied Tendai Mtawarira, in full “Beast” mode, the Sharks’ second just before the interval, as the sides went into the break deadlocked at 10-all.
Am bagged his second soon after the break when a classic Dick Muir-esque set-piece play saw the Springbok centre slice his way through the Waratahs defence to give his side a seven-point buffer.
Poor handling was a constant theme throughout the exchange, with the Durbanites going on to make a whopping 48-errors in all. They were eventually made to pay for their repeated transgressions when a knock-on from a quick throw-in directly resulted in a try to Wallaby captain Michael Hooper; burning several Sharks backs on his way to the try-line.
The loose nature of the game meant that there were further opportunities for Du Preez and Mitch Short to grab converted tries of their own, as the game ended all-square.
The Sharks next host the Sunwolves in Round Four, while the Waratahs travel to South America to face the Jaguares.
Tries: Am 2, Du Preez
Cons: Du Preez 3
Pen: Du Preez
Tries: Gordon, Hooper, Short
Cons: Foley 3
Sharks: 15 Lwazi Mvovo, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Sbu Nkosi, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Keegan Daniel, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 Jacques Vermeulen, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Ruan Botha (c), 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Hyron Andrews, 20 Tera Mtembu, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Marius Louw, 23 Curwin Bosch
Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Andrew Kellaway, 13 Lalakai Foketi, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Curtis Rona, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Jed Holloway, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Michael Wells, 5 Tom Staniforth, 4 Ned Hanigan, 3 Paddy Ryan, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, 1 Tom Robertson
Replacements: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 18 Kalivati Tawake, 19 Nick Palmer, 20 Will Miller, 21 Mitch Short, 22 Bryce Hegarty, 23 Alex Newsome
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: AJ Jacobs (South Africa), Archie Sehlako (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)