Champions Cup: Five takeaways from Sharks v Munster including the performances of the Springbok stars
Following the Sharks’ 50-35 Champions Cup triumph over Munster in Durban on Saturday, Planet Rugby picks out five takeaways from the action.
Springboks stand up for Sharks
Much is made of the Sharks‘ Springbok contingent and how the side often fails to impress with their stars. Last week the Bok-laden team lost 32-20 to the Scarlets, but today, they stepped up.
However, Neil Powell’s stars stepped up to the plate to prove their quality. Makazole Mapimpi broke what was perceived to be a try-scoring drought for a player of his quality.
The Springbok flyer is consistently among the tries, and it did not take long for him to influence the match. A brilliant step off his left foot bamboozled Munster centre Antoine Frisch and the Bok was sharp enough to find Jaden Hendrikse in support to send the scrum-half over for his side’s opening score.
Mapimpi set up another try for Werner Kok with a deft offload and grabbed one himself.
His Springbok partner Lukhanyo Am was less impactful on attack as he usually is but was sound as ever on defence. At the same time, Rohan Janse van Rensburg got the better of Malakai Fekitoa in their head-to-head. Finally, Grant Williams seamlessly filled in at scrum-half when Hendrikse was forced off the pitch.
Brutal pack dominance
While the Springbok backs in the Sharks team impressed, it was the forwards that really took the game out of Munster’s hands and steered the side to victory.
Bongi Mbonambi scored two tries off the back of the powerful maul while they dominated the scrums with Thomas du Toit and Ox Nche bossing the set-piece.
Meanwhile, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, who admittedly isn’t a regular Springbok, produced a superb man-of-the-match performance.
Siya Kolisi made headway with ball in hand, consistently getting over the advantage line, which really hurt the Munster defence.
Kolisi and his fellow back-rowers and locks were superb at the breakdown, too, and forced several errors from Munster. The Test captain claimed that he wasn’t in good enough form to play for the national team earlier this week, but he is quickly getting back up to the right standard.
The Irish province’s inaccuracies at the breakdown is highlighted by the 19 turnovers that the South Africans were able to collect.
Eben Etzebeth v RG Snyman
There was a lot of hype around the two powerhouse second-rowers facing off, and although the battle was short-lived, it lived up to the billing.
While there weren’t too many instances of the pair colliding in open play, they clashed in all the areas you’d expect the tight five forwards to meet.
The competition at lineout time was a joy to watch, with the pair not giving an inch while Etzebeth went one-up on his opponent by sneaking over the line with Snyman attempting to tackle him.
It was an impressive 50-odd-minute outing from Snyman, who was crucial to stalling the Sharks’ maul and Munster’s effectiveness in doing so evaporated when he departed.
The Sharks managed to cope without Etzebeth in the second half, but the Test centurion was a real pest to Munster in the first half contesting kicks and hammering into red jerseys on either side of the ball.
While the Sharks did run in seven tries, there is still a feeling of wasteful play from Powell’s charges.
Curwin Bosch’s break in the second and awful decision to pass inside rather than out, which was clearly the better option, is a perfect example of that.
Time and time again, the Durbanites wasted good field positions with silly penalties or poor decisions, and if they hope to go further in both the Champions Cup and United Rugby Championship, they will need to be more ruthless.
They certainly have the pack to be successful in both tournaments, but with a likely trip to Toulouse and a potential clash with Leinster, at some stage in the URC, they will need to be more ruthless.
Attentions turn fully to the URC for Graham Rowntree’s side now following the Champions Cup defeat.
Their remaining games are in South Africa, against the Stormers and Sharks, which make for a challenging run into the play-offs.
However, they will fancy their chances as they are in fifth place, three spots above the Sharks and seven league points better off.
While Munster will be disappointed by the result, there were patches in the match where they were excellent. Gavin Coombes was excellent once again, as was Calvin Nash. The state of the Kings Park pitch did not help the visitors. Neither did the stark difference in weather conditions that they had compared to last week. It will do them well to remain in South Africa to close off their URC campaign.
As for the Sharks, they will need some consistency if they are to push on in both competitions and with no interruptions from the national side, they will look to make the most of their Springbok-stacked squad.
READ MORE: Seven-try Sharks secure quarter-final spot defeating Munster in Durban
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