Sharks tear into hapless Highlanders

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND (AFP) – South Africa’s World Cup hero Makazole Mapimpi scored a double as the Coastal Sharks outclassed Otago Highlanders 42-20 in Dunedin yesterday.

The Sharks posted five tries to three, with winger Mapimpi – who became the first Springbok to score a try in a Rugby World Cup final during last year’s triumph in Japan – crossing twice just before half-time to give his team the advantage.

Fullback Aphelele Fassi then scored a brace of his own shortly before the full-time siren to snuff out a Highlanders’ fightback.

The result gives the Sharks two wins from two after a 23-15 victory over Northern Bulls last week.

“The boys played for each other. The work rate and the defence were great,” captain Lukhanyo Am said.

“The Highlanders managed to put us under pressure but we bounced back.”

Highlanders skipper Rob Thompson said a home side featuring six debutants made too many errors at crucial moments.

“Unfortunately we let them off too much,” he said. “But we’re a young team and we have a few boys debuting. Unfortunately we couldn’t get it done for them but we’ll be better for it.”

The Highlanders had a bye last week and looked rusty in their first outing of the season, gifting the Sharks early attacking opportunities with knock-ons and poor lineouts.

The match appeared to be settling into a tightly contested arm wrestle before the Sharks sparked to life, snatching three converted tries in seven minutes to take a 27-3 lead at the break.

The first came when flanker James Venter outpaced the Highlanders defence in a race for the line, before Mapimpi twice found himself on the end of passing moves that left the Highlanders’ tacklers flailing.

The Highlanders were much improved after the break and scored three tries but Fassi’s late double ended any prospect of a comeback.

Sharks’ Makazole Mapimpi runs in a try during the Super Rugby match against New Zealand’s Highlanders. PHOTO: AFP