Super Rugby: Jake White's Sharks race to emphatic win over Bulls
By Ben Hampshire | @BH92. Last Updated: 15/02/14 8:07pm
Jake White's return to South Africa enjoyed a victorious start as the Sharks registered a 31-16 bonus-point victory over the Bulls at Kings Park on Saturday.
The former Springboks coach, who left Australian conference side Brumbies to join the Sharks in the winter, watched his new side run in four tries on the opening day of the Super Rugby campaign.
A devastating first-half display saw Paul Jordaan, Cobus Reinach and Odwa Ndungane all cross the line as the Sharks took a 23-9 lead.
The Sharks extended their lead shortly after the break through the boot of Patrick Lambie, before a yellow card for Jean Deysel opened the door for Bulls.
The Pretoria-based side seized the advantage as Jonathan Ross registered their only try of the match before Lambie dotted down a bonus-point try, four minutes after the klaxon had sounded.
It was the Sharks who drew first blood in Durban as Lambie slotted home the first penalty of the evening when Werner Kruger was punished for an infringement at the ruck.
Ludeke's side quickly restored parity as Louis Fouche dropped into the pocket and landed a clean drop-goal attempt from 40 metres out.
The Sharks hit straight back however; Lwazi Mvovo racing onto Reinach's pass before slicing the Bulls defence open. Winger Mvovo reached the 22-metre line before having the presence of mind to offload to Jordaan, who raced home the first try of the match but Lambie hooked the conversion right.
Jan Serfontein attempted to bring the Bulls back into the game with a drop-goal, but his effort was pulled to the left before teammate Fouche bisected the uprights with a penalty.
Fouche then had the opportunity to put the Bulls in the lead from the tee but when he failed to make the kick, the Sharks stepped up the pressure.
Bulls' scrum-half Francois Hougaard was caught napping as his pass was intercepted by Reinach, who raced over the line with power to dot down a second Sharks try.
Lambie further extended the Sharks lead after Jacques du Plessis was caught offside but Fouche returned the favour with a three-pointer of his own to reduce the deficit to seven points.
As the klaxon sounded, White's Sharks won the turnover at the ruck and launched one final attack on the Bulls defence. The ball came out to centre Francois Steyn, who sent a precision cross-field kick to the right for Ndungane to crash over the line, with Lambie adding the extras to give the Sharks a 23-9 lead.
As the second half got underway, Ludeke introduced replacement Victor Matfield - who ended his retirement to sign for the Bulls - and in entering the fray, the prop equalled the record of 125 Super Rugby appearances, currently held by John Smit and AJ Venter.
Matfield had barely been on the field a minute when he conceded a penalty, which Lambie received gratefully, as he added three more points to the Sharks' total.
The Sharks continued where they left off in the first half, dominating possession and territory as they sought a bonus-point try for their efforts.
Ludeke's side were presented a personnel advantage with 15 minutes to play when Jean Deysel was shown a yellow card for illegally collapsing the maul.
With the Sharks a man down, the Bulls pack piled the pressure on their defence and worked their first try of the night when Jonathan Ross touched down after a powerful driving maul crashed over the line.
As the hosts returned to full strength Jordaan burst his way over the gain-line but the Bulls remained resilient, that was, until Bjorn Basson was sent to the sin bin for a deliberate knockdown.
The Sharks took the penalty short and four minutes into overtime their persistence eventually paid off, with Lambie crossing in a bonus-point try as the Sharks laid down an impressive opening salvo.
Super Rugby 2014 Round 1
Chris Feauai-Sautia scored a try three minutes from time to clinch the Queensland Reds' 27-17 win over the ACT Brumbies.
The 2014 Super Rugby season started with an upset as newcomers the Lions recorded a 21-20 win over the Cheetahs.
The Sharks entertain three-time champions Bulls at Kings Park in Durban in a high-profile opener on Saturday.