Fassi shines as Sharks find their bite in win over Edinburgh

Fassi shines as Sharks find their bite in win over Edinburgh

The Sharks have now won back-to-back games for the first time this season in the United Rugby Championship.

The Sharks will feel battle-hardened following their gutsy 23-13 win over Edinburgh in the United Rugby Championship on Saturday at Durban’s Kings Park Stadium.

Tries from Aphelele Fassi, Lukhanyo Am, and Phepsi Buthelezi saw the Sharks get over the line and keep building momentum.

The win means the Sharks win back-to-back games in this URC season for the first time. The match started with the Durban-based side at the bottom of the log, and after the win, they moved up to 13th place on the points table.  

Meanwhile, the Scots will go back home having lost both of their games on their South African tour.

The Sharks’ encounter against Edinburgh was supposed to get them battle-ready for next weekend’s last-16 Challenge Cup clash at home against Zebre, who lost 20-13 to the Dragons on Friday night. 

Plumtree should be happy

After assessing their performance in the tussle against an Edinburgh side that’s fighting to secure a spot in the URC knockout stages, Sharks mentor John Plumtree would be happy. However, Plumtree will be hoping that Vincent Koch, who was a last-minute change because of sickness and Eben Etzebeth, who was substituted because of a suspected rib injury, will recover swiftly.

The Sharks got a lot of things right against Edinburgh, who have a heavy South African contingency that includes former Sharks coach Sean Everitt. 

The set-piece is what was impressive for the Sharks, it’s functioning well again after having teething problems for most parts of the season. When they engaged in the scrum battle, they were strong and the lineout looked very sharp.

The forward pack looked strong in the collisions, something that would please Plumtree as he had stressed that at times their forwards were targeted. With the likes of Etzebeth, Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi and Vincent Tshituka giving the Sharks physicality, it will be hard seeing them being bullied.

Good defence

The defence’s response when they were put under pressure was good, the players did not miss a lot of tackles, and they were quick off the block to be in Edinburgh’s faces. Captain Am led from the front with the blitz and made good defensive reads, showing why he is one of the best outside centres in the world.

The Sharks dominated territory and possession but failed to convert that into scoreboard pressure in the first half. They played in Edinburgh’s half and made a lot of entries to the red zone but didn’t bring points. Handling errors and not being tight at the breakdown cost them. That’s something attack coach Dave Williams will want to work on.

Fassi with a “Weekend Special”

Their only score in the first half came through a brilliant Fassi converted try. He ran through a tiny gap before beating a few players on his way to the white line. The try continued the resurgence Fassi is having this season. He has been one of the Sharks’ best players in a turbulent season. His game has improved significantly, his defence is good, and he uses his long boot well and is very competitive in aerial situations.

The Sharks led 7-3 at halftime as a Ben Healy penalty kick before the break saw Edinburgh on the scoreboard.

Game management was also good on the Sharks’ side; they knew the game was slow because Edinburgh were solid. They waited and when the game opened up they attacked.

Am got the Sharks’ second try of the match after finishing well on the wing, he bounced off South African-born winger Duhan van der Merwe as he dotted down. Credit to Fassi, who created the opportunity for him and continued to have a mature performance. Edinburgh responded with a penalty from Healy, making sure they didn’t let the game go away.

After the hour mark, Siya Masuku converted two penalties to give the Sharks an 18-6 lead, putting them in a good position heading to the last ten minutes of the game. The Sharks were in charge of the game and finished it off with a Buthelezi score. Edinburgh got a consolation converted try through Boan Venter as the Sharks won 23 – 13.

Scorers

Sharks: Tries – Aphelele Fassi, Lukhanyo Am, Phepsi Buthelezi; Conversions – Siya Masuku; Penalties – Masuku (2)

Edinburgh: Try – Boan Venter; Conversion – Ben Healy; Penalties – Healy (2)

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