Another impressive performance by Patrick Lambie inspired the Sharks to a comprehensive 20-3 win over the Vodacom Blue Bulls to power their way into the Absa Currie Cup final next week in Durban.
If ever there was a time that Lambie could send Bok coach Heyneke Meyer a clear message of his intentions to play flyhalf for the national team, the wet and muddy Durban game was the perfect moment.
With conditions not perfect for running rugby, the Sharks kept their composure more and capitalised on both the Bulls' indiscipline and mistakes, and simply built an innings around Lambie’s boot as the Bulls disintegrated in their own frustration.
There is no doubt the Bulls had some cause to be frustrated. The 15-6 penalty count against them was at times harsh, but they were never the better team on the park. The Sharks controlled the game from start to finish as their pack gained ascendency; they bettered the Bulls in the scrums and made far less mistakes with ball in hand.
And then there was the kicking game of the Bulls. It is a well-known aspect of this game that accuracy is a key point of it and often when it goes wrong and this accuracy isn’t attained, it becomes a perfect counter-attacking platform for the opposition and nullifies any attacking platform the Bulls would have had.
Too often the Bulls simply booted away ball they could have kept in hand, and when they finally did try and run the ball, they succumbed to the pressure the Sharks pack put on them.
This resulted in almost no ball to attack from in the first half, and the Sharks reveled in their dominance up front. With so much ball and so many attacking opportunities, the pressure had to tell. And with it the Bulls started giving away penalties.
Lambie may have missed his first one, but then slotted a perfect second and simply didn’t look back. But his all-round control of the game was a sign of maturity, and it was costly for the Bulls as he saw space behind the defence on the half hour, and chipped only to be stopped by a trip by Bulls prop Morne Mellett.
Mellett was lucky only to get a yellow, and Mark Lawrence’s shrill whistle stopped a certain penalty try as he blew a bit too early, but the indiscretion was still costly, as Lambie slotted two more penalties in Mellett’s absence to let the home side lead 9-0 at the break.
In the second half the Bulls discipline disintegrated even more, and Lambie kept on slotting the penalties. By the time the reserves started appearing the Sharks were 15-0 up and even when Steyn finally got a shot at goal, the game was virtually over.
Lwazi Mvovo slid in at the corner to put the game beyond doubt, and the Sharks were already looking forward to a home final by then.
On a night when the conditions dictated a close game, it was Lambie who emerged at the top and if he can produce this form on the tour next week, then the Boks can only be too happy.
SHARKS – Try: Lwazi Mvovo. Penalties: Patrick Lambie (5).
BLUE BULLS – Penalty: Morne Steyn