Sharks’ tough start under Plumtree continues with fifth successive URC loss

Sharks player Cameron Wright and Byron Ralston of Connacht during the United Rugby Championship match at Kings Park on November 18, 2023.
Sharks player Cameron Wright and Byron Ralston of Connacht during the United Rugby Championship match at Kings Park on November 18, 2023.
Image: Steve Haag Sports/Gallo Images

The Sharks’ continued failure to address their appalling error rate saw them slump to their fifth successive defeat and remain winless in the United Rugby Championship season.   

This after the Durbanites went down in 13-12 to travelling Irish side Connacht at Kings Park Stadium on Saturday, in the Sharks’ first home game of the season.   

Before the game that was riddled by handling errors, the Sharks had lost all their first four matches of the campaign during their month-long tour of Europe.   

They had hoped that things would be better at home but the painful journey under the new coach, John Plumtree continues.   

The Sharks scored more tries than their rivals, two, but conceding too many penalties worked against them.   

Sikhumbuzo Notshe and Werner Kok scored the tries for the Sharks side that was also let down by poor kicking from their pivots Curwin Bosch and Boeta Chamberlain off the bench.   

Connacht's only try was scored by Sean O'Brien while flyhalf JJ Hanrahan scored eight points with his boot.    

In spite of the Sharks showing improvements from the previous outings and enjoying a good dominance in the opening half, they were let down by high error rate, something that has troubled them in most of their games this season.   

They spent most of the time in the half of the opponent in the opening half but failed to do much to hurt the Irish side.   

The return of two-time Rugby World Cup-winning Springbok Lukhanyo Am seemed to have bettered the performance of the Sharks’ backline.   

With Am back at outside centre, the communication was better between him and partner and skipper Francois Venter at inside centre.   

Players such as Aphiwe Dyantyi at left wing and Aphelele Fassi at fullback were quite impressive but couldn’t find that final touch when they got closer to Connacht’s tryline.   

Upfront, exciting prop Ntuthuko Mchunu was impressive as well as Emile van Heerden.     

Shark’s lineout looked shaky for most of the time as the visitors looked solid in defence and threatened in attack.   

They got on the scoresheet first after O'Brien crossed the line after the Sharks failed to deal with pressure from the visitors on seven minutes.   

A successful kick for extras by JJ Hanrahan gave the host a 7-0 lead early in the game.   

The Sharks pushed for a quick response, but the Irish side managed to keep them at bay with their excellent defending, combined with the hosts’ errors, until the 31st minute when Notshe went over after a tap and go by Mchunu.   

However, Bosch missed his kick for extras, allowing Connacht to remain in the lead. The Europeans increased their lead when Hanrahan scored a penalty seven minutes before the break to give his side a 10-5 lead at the break.   

The Durbanites started the second half showing more hunger to get back into the game and played with urgency.   

They kept Connacht under massive pressure for eight minutes straight, which saw Dowling being yellow carded on 48 minutes.   

The Sharks capitalised on that advantage as they scored their second try after a grubber by Am that found Kok and brought the side level before Bosch gave them the lead for the first time in the game with his conversion.   

A wrong decision by Bosch with 15 minutes to play brought back Connacht to lead though a successful penalty kick for Hanrahan.   

This after the Sharks flyhalf backed himself to go on the outside only to get exposed and gave away a penalty.   

With the Sharks trailing by one point, they got a penalty on 72 minutes closer to the poles but replacement flyhalf Chamberlain missed it. 


Sharks (5) 12 Tries: Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Werner Kok Conversions: Curwin Bosch

Connacht (10) 13 Try: Sean O'Brien Conversion: JJ Hanrahan Penalties: Hanrahan (2)