The Sharks claimed an historic win over the Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday despite playing most of the game with 14 men.
The Sharks claimed an historic 30-25 victory over the Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday despite playing most of the game with 14 men.
The match was marred by a moment of madness from Jean Deysel, who was sent off in the 15th minute after stomping on the head of the home side's flanker Jordan Taufua.
But despite their numerical disadvantage – and even with 13 men during the second half, after Willem Alberts was sent to the sin bin – the Sharks stuck to their guns manfully and stayed in touch with their hosts throughout the game before a try from Kyle Cooper in the 75th minute secured them a deserved victory.
The Sharks started brightly and were dominant during the early exchanges. Their efforts were rewarded with a try by S'bura Sithole in the ninth minute after brilliant play in the build-up from Frans Steyn.
After making a break from just inside his half, the Springbok cut infield and drew in three defenders inside the Crusaders' 22 before delivering a pass out of the back of his hand to Sithole who crashed over for the game's opening try.
Steyn converted but the hosts struck back with a try from Colin Slade after a costly mistake from the visitors just outside their 22. Cobus Reinach failed to gather a bomb from Willie Heinz and Sam Whitelock pounced on the loose ball. The big lock set off towards the try-line but, after being hauled in by the cover defence, offloaded to Slade who, after fending off Steyn, crossed the whitewash despite the attentions of two defenders.
He converted his own try and the game swung in the hosts' favour shortly afterwards when Deysel took the law into his own hands after Taufua held onto his leg after a tackle.
Slade slotted the resulting penalty and added another three-pointer on the half-hour mark after the Sharks were penalised for a scrum infringement.
Steyn narrowed the gap to three points with a three-pointer of his own shortly before half-time.
The Sharks scored first after the break with Reinach being rewarded after a pass from Heinz bounced off his knee on his 10-metre line. Reinach kicked the ball ahead and displayed some more football skills, inside the home side's 22, before diving over for a converted try.
Slade narrowed the gap to a point with a penalty five minutes later but Steyn restored the visitors' four-point lead with a three-pointer from the kicking tee in the 52nd minute.
The rest of the half was a war of attrition as both sides battled to gain the ascendancy. The Crusaders received a further shot in the arm when Alberts received his marching orders in the 64th minute for taking Wyatt Crockett out off the ball.
But, the home side failed to capitalise despite playing against 13 men. Their only points during Alberts' stint off the field came via two penalties from Slade, but the Sharks' replacement fly-half Tim Swiel also added a three-pointer during this period which kept the visitors in touch.
With the score at 25-23 to the Crusaders, the Sharks went in search of the win and got their break after taking the ball through several phases, inside the Crusaders' 22.
Cooper – who came on late in the game along with Dale Chadwick and Lourens Adriaanse as replacements for the Springbok front row of Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis, and Beast Mtawarira – was the visitors' hero when he exploited a gap at a ruck, close to the Crusaders' try-line, and barged over from close quarters for what proved to be the match-winning try.
The victory means that the Sharks have now beaten the seven-time champions for the first time in Christchurch and they are also the first South African side to beat the Crusaders in New Zealand since 2001.
Pens: Slade 6
Tries: Sithole, Reinach, Cooper
Cons: Steyn 2, Swiel
Pens: Steyn 2, Swiel
Red Card: Deysel
Yellow Card: Alberts
Cruasaders: 15 Tom Taylor, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Ryan Crotty (c), 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Willie Heinz, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Richie McCaw, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Tim Perry, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Jimmy Tupou, 20 George Whitelock, 21 Andy Ellis, 22 Tyler Bleyendaal, 23 Nafi Tuitavake.
Sharks:15 SP Marais, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 S'bura Sithole, 12 Paul Jordaan, 11 Lwazi Mvovo ,10 Francois Steyn, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Willem Alberts, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Tera Mtembu, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, (c) 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements:16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Ryan Kankowski, 20 Keegan Daniel, 21 Charl McLeod, 22 Tim Swiel, 23 Heimar Williams
Referee: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia)