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Jean-Luc du Preez © Backpagepix

Sharks outgun Blues in thriller



A commanding performance by the two Du Preez brothers – Robert and Jean-Luc – put the Blues to the sword as the Cell C Sharks scored their biggest-ever win over the New Zealand franchise, winning a 12-try thriller 63-40 in Auckland on Saturday.

Both teams scored six tries apiece, but the boot of the older Robert du Preez was the difference, as he racked up 38 points through a try, seven penalties and six conversions as the Sharks broke all manner of records in New Zealand.

The points aggregate was the highest ever between the two sides, while the 63 points well-eclipses the 41 they put up in 2001.

And while Robert was putting up the points, Jean-Luc put up a performance that would have made the Springbok selectors sit up and notice. Physically powerful, destructive and always going forward, the younger Du Preez was a thorn in the side of the Blues pack, scored a beautiful try and made another with his bullocking play.

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FINDING THEIR POWER AND PACE

But to leave this all down to two players would be an injustice to a Sharks outfit that found their power and pace on a weekend when they were written off across the country. After some frustrating weeks of being nowhere near their best, they reminded the country just how good they could be.

With their pack dominating the setpieces and rumbling forward in the maul, they created a perfect platform for Du Preez to weave his magic for the backline and they responded in kind. One of the standout features of the win was the interplay between forwards and backs and the offloads that the Sharks employed to countlessly get over the gainline.

There was a period when the victory looked unlikely though, as they let a 26-7 lead slip just after halftime when S’bu Nkosi was yellow carded for a high tackle. That period saw the Blues hit back with three tries to lead 28-26 when Nkosi returned. But back to full complement the Sharks simply didn’t look back.

The game started off with the Durban side dominating early proceedings, with Du Preez putting them ahead with a penalty before Jean-Luc du Preez engineered a turnover in the Blues 22, then broke from the scrum and powered through a tackle to offload to Ruan Botha who powered his way over the line.

ONE OF THE BEST TRIES OF THE SEASON

Another Rob du Preez penalty five minutes later put the Sharks 13 points ahead but the Blues hit back with one of the best tries of the season, going the length of the field before Michael Collins went over to score.

Three more points by Rob Du Preez’ boot kept the Sharks in front and they went further out on the half-hour mark when Andre Esterhuizen broke the first line of defence, shook off a tackle and offloaded to Jean-Luc du Preez to power over to score. Another penalty before halftime put the Sharks 26-7 out at the break.

The yellow card came in the 43rd minute of the game and left the Sharks one short. A minute later Akira Ioane was on the end of the attack to finish off the move for a try he was earlier denied and the Blues came back into the game.

Patrick Tuipoluto broke through the middle of half tackles from Esterhuizen and Botha to run 20 metres to score two minutes later and flyhalf Stephen Perofeta danced his way through the defence for the third try in eight minutes to give his side a rare lead in the contest.

DOMINANCE RESTORED

A break by Rob du Preez with the Sharks back to 15 restored their dominance, as he took the space before offloading to Tera Mtembu to score. Another big run by Jean-Luc four minutes later popped the ball to Stephan Lewies, who took it beautifully to canter towards the line before putting Rob du Preez over for the try.

Another penalty by Du Preez powered the Sharks closer to the win, but they were handed more advantage when Blues winger Jordan Trainor took out Nkosi in the air from the kickoff and was given a yellow for his troubles.

Du Preez added another three points before a beautiful half intercept by Lukhanyo Am, who read matters perfectly and got the luck when the ball went straight down, led to replacement Kobus van Wyk heading over in the corner.

Rieko Ioane and George Moala scored late tries to make the scoreline look better for the Blues, but they were well beaten in the contest. And when Curwin Bosch added the last try way after the hooter sounded, it capped off a magical night for the Sharks.

Scorers

Blues – tries: Michael Collins, Akira Ioane, Patrick Tuipulotu, Stephen Perofeta, Rieko Ioane, George Moala;Conversions: Perofeta (5)

Cell C Sharks – tries: Ruan Botha, Jean-Luc du Preez, Terra Mthembu, Robert du Preez, Kobus van Wyk, Curwin Bosch; Conversions: Robert du Preez (6). Penalties: Robert du Preez (7)



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