The British and Irish Lions crushed the Sharks 71-31 in Pretoria on Saturday in a touring match that saw South African scrum-half Jaden Hendrikse sent off.
A near third-place Sharks team held the visitors 26-26 until the red card in the 46th minute, and the Lions took full advantage to score seven tries against 14 men.
Hendrikse hit Lions full-back Liam Williams with an elbow and England referee Wayne Barnes, after briefly consulting with the televised match official, sent a red card.
The decision turned a surprisingly tight third game of the Lions tour into one, and the visitors have scored 27 tries as they prepare for a three-test run against the Springboks starting July 24.
“A huge credit to the Sharks, to the way they faced each other. They really gave it to us in the first half, ”said Lions captain Jamie George. “The red card probably opened the game up a bit for our team.”
“(In the) first half we were probably a bit behind in terms of crashes. The main lesson we take is that we need a little more composure.
“A lot of their tries are down to our mistakes. We were playing a little too loose. It’s better to learn that now than in a few weeks.”
Sharks skipper and number eight Phepsi Buthelezi said: “We got the start we wanted. We put a lot of pressure on them in the first half.
“In the second half unfortunately there was the red card. It’s very difficult to play against these guys with a red card.”
Lions coach Warren Gatland has expressed concern over weak opposition from the Johannesburg Lions and Sharks in previous games.
With the original Bulls opponents unable to play on Saturday due to a coronavirus outbreak in the squad, the Sharks have stepped in with a squad showing 11 changes from the one that lost heavily three days ago.
The Sharks midweek squad was a virtual B team given the absence of nine stars, including Springboks skipper Siya Kolisi, who is on the national team.
When Sharks coach Sean Everitt made sweeping changes, some pundits feared the Lions would be close to 100 points.
However, after a first try for center Lions Chris Harris, the Sharks equalized through full-back Anthony Volmink, then led three times in a first half that ended in a deadlock at 26-26.
That score stayed until the red card, after which the Lions rioted as they made a series of substitutions with tour captain and scrum-half Conor Murray coming off the bench for his first appearance.
Murray was sentenced with four minutes to go, but being squeezed to 14 to death didn’t stop the appetite for testing and winger Anthony Watson got his second.
Harris, skipper and hooker Jamie George (2), winger Duhan van der Merwe, flanker Tadhg Beirne (2), number eight Jack Conan, center Elliot Daly, Watson (2) and flanker Tom Curry were Lions test markers.
Open half Dan Biggar succeeded with eight conversions of varying difficulty or a personal total of 16 points.
Volmink (2), winger Thaakir Abrahams, Hendrikse and center Werner Kok scored tries for the Sharks as opener Lionel Cronje converted three.
© 2021 AFP