The Sharks may be the highest ranked SA team in the URC, but they blew a massive opportunity to climb the log in yesterday's game against the Stormers. Blowing it may even be an understatements as the Stormers left Durban smiling thanks to what amounts to two own goals from the home side. A 19 - 3 lead wasn't enough to shelter them from poor discipline as they conceded four yellow cards and two penalty tries to hand the Stormers a 22 all draw.
It looked promising at the start as the Sharks scored early after a long pass from Makazole Mapimpi put Lukhanyo Am away in the 3rd minute. Further penalties were exchanged between flyhalves with Boeta Chamberlain's long range drop goal ensuring the Sharks went into the break 11 - 3 up. The Sharks came out firing from the sheds and Fassi put Mapimpi in with a grubber that saw the Sharks to a health lead at 19 - 3 but this is where it began to unravel.
The influx of cards began when captain Lukhanyo Am was shown a yellow when referee Marius van der Westhuizen decided it was warranted by a series of penalties. The next card was for front ranker Kuthu Mchunu was seen to have collapsed the maul and the Stormers were awarded their 1st penalty try, an immediate 7 points. This card was soon followed by a yellow to Sbu Nkosi in the 77th minute for taking out Senatla without the ball in a chase to the try line.
Left to 13 men, the Sharks were under pressure on their own try-line for the last 5 minutes of the game and set about repelling wave after wave of Stormers forwards itching to get over the white wash. When the Stormers decided to send it wide, the wandering hand of Aphelele Fassi saw him knock the ball down as the Stormers had a 2 man overlap and an almost certain try. They would have needed the conversion though to ensure they walked away with a draw.
After calling on the TMO, Fassi was the 4th yellow carded player for the Sharks on the night, giving away a penalty try and a further 7 points to even up the score line. The Sharks ill discipline undoubtedly cost them dearly here as the side looked to build momentum in the URC. The draw sees them remaining behind Cardiff Rugby in 10th on the log, whilst the Stormers are in 12th.
The Sharks and Stormers face off again next weekend, this time in Cape Town. The Sharks may take solace in the fact that the Stormers have a history of performing better away from home, but none of this will matter if they can't sort out their discipline ahead of this key fixture in the tournament.