The Sharks booked themselves a home Currie Cup semi-final on Friday with a crushing 63-6 win over the Leopards.
The Sharks booked themselves a home Currie Cup semi-final on Friday with a crushing 63-6 win over the Leopards in Durban.
It took less than 20 minutes for the Sharks to secure the four-try bonus point. They will now travel to Cape Town to face Western Province next week without any pressure as they are assured of a home play-off.
Even though the chances of failure were at a minimum the Sharks hit the ground running and played as if their lives depended on the outcome of the match.
It took stand-in skipper Keegan Daniel less than a minute to go over for his team's first of nine tries when he capitalised on a move which began with a perfectly timed break by centre Riaan Swanepoel.
Leopards fly-half Clayton du Randt tried his best to mend the cracks that were showing in their defence by slotting a penalty, but he too was gasping for air as the proverbial dam wall broke shortly after he put his team on the scoreboard.
Again it was Daniel and again the five-pointer came as a result of the special care the Sharks took in retaining possession.
With 12 minutes on the clock 17 points were scored and only three of those belonged to the Leopards.
Four minutes later Springbok loosehead Jannie du Plessis added his name to the list of scorers and, after fly-half Andre Pretorius' third successful conversion, the Sharks enjoyed a 21-3 lead.
The all-out attacking rugby continued and Leopards were found displaying characteristics vultures are usually associated with as they had to be satisfied with the few scraps the home side gave them.
Hooker Craig Buren showed why he should be considered for the national team's Grand Slam tour throughout the evening with the try he made for full-back Louis Ludik highlighting his versatility and pace.
With the bonus point in the bag the Sharks took their feet off the pedal – only slightly – and Du Rand eventually converted another penalty to double his team's score.
That seemingly broke the home side's rhythm, but Springbok wing Odwa Ngungane had the final say of the half when he scored his team's fifth try.
Apart from one defensive kick by Pretorius and a little grubber by Ndungane the only other contact the ball made with a Sharks player's foot was at scrum time.
In that department the battle between Os van der Waldt and Eugene van Staden was an intriguing one with both props being penalised for infringements.
Riaan Swanepoel's return to his preferred inside centre slot was a success as he fearlessly attacked the advantage line while combining well with Pretorius, who himself had a splendid start at 10.
The Sharks entered the second half leading 33-6 and as was the case in the first, they added five points in their first visit to the Leopards goal-line.
Ndungane scored his second try of the night and although the Sharks made several substitutions it was always only going to be a matter of time before his wing partner, Lwazi Mvovo, would finish.
Having come close on two previous occasions Mvovo finally found space on the outside after Patrick Lambie – who started off the bench – showed that although he is a fly-half he can also steal the ball at the breakdowns.
Quick hands by the backline from the turnover caught the Leopards unaware and Mvovo trotted home for his team's seventh.
Van Standen then bounced off a few defenders on the goal line to put the fifty up and to rub salt into the deep cuts the Sharks inflicted on their opponents, Du Plessis scored his second which Lambie converted on an evening where none of the Sharks goal kickers missed a single shot at goal.
For the Sharks:
Tries: Daniel 2, J. Du Plessis 2, Ludik, Ndungane 2, Mvovo, Van Staden
Cons: Pretorius 6, Lambie 3
For the Leopards:
Pens: Durand 2
Sharks: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Andries Strauss, 12 Riaan Swanepoel, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Andre Pretorius, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel (c), 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Gerhard Mostert, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Jannie Du Plessis, 2 Craig Burden,1 Eugene van Staden.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Patric Cilliers, 18 Anton Bresler/Michael Rhodes, 19 Michael Rhodes, 20 Rory Kockott, 21 Patrick Lambi 22 Luzuko Vulindlu.
Leopards: 15 Cecil Dumond, 14 Cornelius Rautenbach, 13 Jovan Bowles, 12 Walter Venter, 11 Dumisani Matyeshana, 10 Clayton Durand, 9 Tiaan Dorfling, 8 Riaan Swanepoel, 7 Willem Koch (captain), 6 Victor Joubert, 5 Edrich Linde, 4 Brad Mockford, 3 Barend van der Walt, 2 Gavin Williamson, 1 Bennie Uys.
Replacements: 16 Marthinus van der Westhuizen, 17 Eric Coetzee, 18 Anthonie Gronum, 19 RW Kember, 20 Divan Kotze, 21 Gharfoer Luckan, 22 Jan van Zyl.
Referee: Joey Salmans