With the Sharks anchored to the bottom of the United Rugby Championship standings – having won just one of nine matches – the Durban-based side would’ve been desperate to give their fans something to smile about this weekend.
The memories of last weekend’s two-point defeat to South African rivals the Lions may play on the mind for quite some time, but the Sharks did what they needed to do in the Challenge Cup.
Prop Ox Nche – who famously coined the term “salads don’t win scrums” – opened the scoring at Kings Park Stadium in the ninth minute.
Fullback Aphelele Fassi reeled in an up-and-under down the left touchline before finding lock Corne Rahl with a pass. The second-rower was stopped five metres short of the try-line, though, which gifted Nche the opener with a pop pass.
Then, after a try to playmaker Curwin Bosch was disallowed, ‘The Ox’ helped the Sharks make amends by completing a rapid brace in the 21st minute.
Springboks wing Makazole Mapimpi added the Sharks’ third score in the 34th minute as the hosts ran away with a commanding 19-nil half-time lead.
Mapimpi completed a two-try haul of his own during the second term, while two-time World Cup winner Lukhanyo Am also crossed for a score of his own.
In the end, the result was never in doubt as the Sharks registered an utterly emphatic 38-7 win. After leading the way with an early double, prop Ox Nche also received the Sharks’ Challenge Cup Player of the Match honours.
The Sharks have moved up to the top of Pool 1, although the Cheetahs can leapfrog them with a win over Pau. Those two teams will go head-to-head in the final Challenge Cup match of the round on Sunday.