DURBAN, March 2 (Reuters) - South Africa’s Sharks outmuscled compatriots the Stormers 12-6 in a wet Super Rugby clash in Durban on Saturday that had plenty of bluster but little attacking quality.
There was no score in the opening 40 minutes as both sides coughed up possession through unforced errors which allowed little rhythm in the game.
Defensive units on both sides were excellent, with the tackles fierce and the game was settled after the break by penalties - Pat Lambie converting four for the Sharks with Joe Pietersen replying with two for the Stormers.
“There wasn’t much to enjoy from the fans point of view in the first half, but you have to play the conditions and there was a lot of kicking tonight,” said Stormers captain Jean de Villiers.
It was more of the same in the second period, although the difference from the first 40 minutes being the penalties were more in range for the goal-kickers.
The Sharks took the lead soon after the restart. Frans Malherbe collected the ball in an offside position after Joe Pietersen had spilled an up-and-under and Lambie added the three points.
The visitors levelled when the Sharks were penalised for entering the maul from the side and Pietersen slotted over.
But the Sharks began to assert domination in the forwards after that and they muscled their way into a six-point lead as Lambie added two more penalties.
Pietersen briefly brought the deficit back to three as Louis Ludik was penalised for hands in the ruck, but the home side added their fourth penalty on the hour-mark after a Stormers infringement at the lineout.
The Stormers finally found the continuity to put some phases together and work their way into the Sharks 22, but Deon Fourie knocked the ball on.
That was their final opportunity to get in front in the game, and Sharks captain Francois Steyn praised his side’s defensive effort.
“We knew it was going to be all about our defence, the guys showed great guts,” Steyn said.
A losing bonus point was all the Stormers could take from the game, although de Villiers believes their performance was an improvement on their loss to the Bulls last weekend.
“It was a much better performance for us this week, but it is difficult to play rugby in slippery conditions,” De Villiers said.
“We were beaten by a better team and they played the conditions better. Both teams were very solid, but our discipline let us down.” (Reporting by Nick Said in Cape Town, editing by Justin Palmer)