SINGAPORE - The Sunwolves were taken to school on Saturday in a 45-10 loss to the Sharks in their Super Rugby season opener in which the Durban-based South African side emphatically demonstrated that the old ways are often the best.
Although competitive early on at Singapore National Stadium, their second home, the Sunwolves were simply outplayed for much of the game and largely overpowered by the Sharks forwards.
“We felt we did a pretty good job in the first 25 minutes, then discipline crept back in, and that means they could turn back to their set piece and that’s one of their strengths and when you’re on the back foot against a team like the Sharks, that’s pretty tough going,” said Sunwolves co-captain Craig Millar, who added that his team’s mistakes simplified the game for the Sharks.
“Rugby is a pretty easy game when you’re getting awarded penalties every so often,” he said.
In the worst sense, the first half was classic Sunwolves — flashes of offensive trickery contrasting with being outplayed in the set piece. The Sunwolves repeatedly created opportunities with clever passing and running only to give away a penalty or lose control of the ball.
Nine minutes in, a good Hayden Parker kick into space set up the game’s first try. The ball took a lucky bounce into the welcoming arms of Shane Gates, who took it in stride and sprinted across for the five points. Parker added the extras and his 15th-minute penalty made it a 10-3 game.
“They got an early bounce-of-the-ball try and we showed the patience to come back from that,” Sharks captain Louis Schreuder said. “Nice resilience from the boys, and good fightback, and we finished really well.”
On the ensuing kick, a Sunwolves penalty set up a driving maul that saw Armand van der Merwe cross. Robert du Preez, whose fifth-minute penalty opened the scoring, converted to level the scores at 10 apiece.
With most of the action taking place in their half, the Sharks’ dominance began to show. A lineout in front of the Sunwolves’ try line set up a powerful but slick short 35th-minute run by Daniel du Preez for the Sharks’ second try. Three minutes later Sibusiso Nkosi finished off a great move by his teammates down the flank with another try.
The second half played out like a training film as the Sharks executed in every phase, adding on three more tries to emphasize their superiority.
“(It was) a massive effort from the pack,” Schreuder said. “Obviously we got a good number of rewards from the balls in our scrums, so they laid the platform and the backs tried to finish them off. They (the forwards) put in the hard work.”
The Sunwolves will be in Tokyo next Saturday to take on the Waratahs at Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground.