Sharks claim comprehensive victory
The Sharks signed off their Super Rugby season in fine style with a 32-12 bonus-point victory over the Stormers in Durban on Saturday.
The Stormers had already wrapped up the South African Conference and a play-off place prior to this weekend's fixtures but, with coach Allister Coetzee making widespread changes, they were never really in the Kings Park Stadium contest as the Sharks ran in five unanswered tries.
The Sharks only had pride to play for going into their final game of the campaign having missed out on a play-off place, but tries from Lionel Cronje, Stefan Ungerer, Bismarck Du Plessis, Lwazi Mvovo and Odwa Ndungane earned them a comprehensive victory in front of their own fans.
Stormers boss Coetzee made 14 changes to the side that drew with the Lions last weekend but they took an early lead when Kurt Coleman kicked an eighth-minute penalty when Sharks number eight Renaldo Bothma was pinged for not releasing.
Sharks fly-half Cronje was the beneficiary of some embarrassing defending in the 17th minute as the Stormers struggled to clear a hopeful punt into their territory and he won a foot race with visiting Pat Howard to touch down for the game's opening try.
Coleman booted another couple of penalties as JP Pietersen and Bothma were penalised for being in front of the kicker, but Cronje kicked a penalty of his own and scrum-half Ungerer sniped over to score his side's second try to ensure the Sharks went into the half-time interval with a 13-9 lead.
Coleman booted his fourth penalty of the match eight minutes into the second half to cut the deficit to a single point but veteran hooker Du Plessis, playing his final game for the Sharks, dotted down in the corner and Cronje added the extras to stretch their lead to 20-12 with a little over half an hour remaining.
Full-back Mvovo sealed the bonus-point win when he collected a Cronje grubber kick to score the Shark's fourth try on the hour mark and the Stormers' miserable evening was completed when Robert du Preez was sin-binned with five minutes left and wing Ndungane added a fifth Sharks' try moments before the final whistle.
The Stormers will tackle the Brumbies in next weekend's qualifiers with the winner facing the Waratahs for a place in this season's Super Rugby final on July 4.