The Sharks were able to resist a late fightback from the Blue Bulls to win their Currie Cup semi-final 16-12 in Durban.
In difficult conditions, the Sharks were able to resist a late fightback from the Blue Bulls to win their Currie Cup semi-final 16-12 in Durban.
Sharks flank Keegan Daniel scored the only try of a game that started in bright sunshine and ended in torrential rain.
The home side were full value for their victory as the dominated territory and possession for most of the game.
In a tense final few minutes, Bulls skipper Victor Matfield twice chose to go for a match-winning try rather than narrow the gap with a penalty, only to see a courageous Sharks defence send the reigning champions crashing out of the competition.
Kick-off was delayed by over 30 minutes as a swarm of bees infested the pitch. With a couple of players allergic to the uninvited guests, there was no option but to wait until they could be chased away.
When play finally did get under way, the Sharks made a perfect start as they took the ball up through fourteen phases from the kick-off to put Daniel in under the posts.
The Sharks did almost all of the attacking in the first half, but facing a ultra-disciplined Bulls defence the hosts had nothing more than a four-point lead at half-time.
The Durbanites impressed as the kept ball in hand and in play, starving the Bulls of possession as line-outs were a rarity. As conditions deteriorated in the second period, the Bulls pack became more and more involved, setting a grand-stand finish.
It was all Sharks in the opening fifteen minutes but the Bulls got into first gear at the end of the first quarter and were on the score board after their first attack thanks to a Morne Steyn penalty.
The Sharks were controlling the game but were unable to capitalise on their possession as Patrick Lambie and Steyn traded penalties around the half-hour mark to keep four-point gap.
Shortly before the break it began to drizzle and neither team was able to add to their score as they heading to the changing rooms with the Sharks up 10-6.
The rain continued to fall in the second period as Lambie extended the lead shortly after the restart before Steyn uncharacteristically missed with a relatively easy kick.
The Springbok fly-half made no mistake a few minutes later however, slotting an outstanding kick from over 50m.
As the rain grew harder the Sharks continued to ply the pressure, forcing another penalty on the deck and Lambie could restore the seven-point lead. Steyn had a chance to strike right back when Bismarck du Plessis lost his temper but his kick was blown off-target but the increasingly strong wing.
The Bulls number ten found the mark with his next kick however to leave the scores at 16-12 going into the final quarter.
The rain was absolutely bucketing down with eight minutes to go when Matfield made a vital call, choosing to kick for the corner rather than taking a shot at goal. A line-out and eleven phases later and the Bulls had gone backwards, but Matfield repeated his decision to set up a line-out with four minutes left.
The crowd was on their feet when the ball reached Gerhard van den Heever on the wing, only for a gang on Sharks cover defenders to bundle the young wing into touch…and the chance was lost.
One final fling from the visitors ended with Lambie taking an outstanding mark on his try line to end any hopes of a Bulls win.
Man of the match: Tough to pick out an individual in a solid team-effort from the Sharks. Lambie was near-faultless with his kicking but the Sharks pack made the difference. Willem Alberts and Steven Sykes deserve a mention but we'll go with Alistair Hargreaves who had a storming game, especially in defence.
Moment of the match: One minute left on the clock, Steyn sends a bomb into the sky for the Bulls centres to chase. With his try-line behind him, Lambie – who turns 20 tomorrow – keeps his cool to take the catch in the pouring rain and calls for the mark. Game over!
For the Sharks:
Pens: Lambie 3
For the Blue Bulls:
Pens: Steyn 4
Sharks: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Stefan Terblanche (c), 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Eugene van Staden, 18 Anton Bresler, 19 Jacques Botes, 20 Rory Kockott, 21 Andre Pretorius, 22 Odwa Ndungane.
Blue Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Jaco Pretorius, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Jaco van der Westhuyzen, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Danie Rossouw, 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Derick Kuun, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Rossouw de Klerk, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Pierre Spies, 20 Ruan Snyman, 21 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 22 Deon Stegmann.
Venue: Absa Stadium, Durban
Referee: Marius Jonker
Assistant referees: Jonathan Kaplan, Phillip Bosch
Television match official: Johann Meuwesen