A last-minute try from Riaan Viljoen handed the Sharks a 22-20 victory over a spirited Blues outfit at Kings Park on Saturday.
A last-minute try from Riaan Viljoen handed the Sharks a 22-20 win over the Blues in Durban on Saturday.
Victory was a welcome boost for the South African outfit after a tough couple of weeks off the field that climaxed with coach John Plumtree leaving.
This result leaves the Sharks in ninth position while the Blues are one place above their hosts, with their play-off hopes taking a hefty blow.
The Sharks adopted a typically forward dominated approach at Kings Park and it paid dividends in the first-half, with their points coming via mauls.
First it was flanker Coetzee on the back of a set play – with a bit of help from Tendai Mtawarira – to cross after Odwa Ndungane had been denied a try a few minutes earlier. There was no stopping the Springbok though, and with Pat Lambie's extras going over, the Sharks were 7-0 ahead.
The Sharks definitely deserved their lead after dominating the early exchanges in Durban. And their advantage was doubled to fourteen five minutes later when the elusive McLeod darted over the whitewash as the New Zealanders continued to struggle to enjoy any real possession or territory in the sunshine.
Frank Halai did get the Blues on the board with half-an-hour played when he powered over on the right, getting past Lambie like he wasn't there. However, the fly-half would then reply with the final action of the half, sending over a penalty to make up for a previous miss.
The Blues coaching staff had a great deal of work to get through if they were to overturn the 17-5 scoreline, built largely on the Sharks' brute force. And the words from Sir John Kirwan seemed to stir the outfit from Auckland as Halai went over for his second on 42 minutes.
Things would further improve for the Blues moments later as the impact substitute of all impact substitutes, Rene Ranger, was next to shrug off number 10 Lambie en route to a simple run in off the side of a ruck five out. Chris Noakes' two points levelled matters.
Grant Bashford and Hugh Reece-Edwards, who were in charge of their first game since John Plumtree's departure, could have seen their side reclaim the lead via a long-range penalty on 55 minutes after Steven Luatua infringed at a ruck, but Lambie was off-target as his immensely disappointing afternoon continued off the kicking tee and in defence.
In contrast the Blues were finding their range off the tee as replacement Baden Kerr made it 17-20 just after the hour mark after openside flank Coetzee had failed to roll away at a ruck.
But with time up on the clock the Sharks would strike to sink their visitors as, following countless hit-ups, the hosts finally moved the ball wide to where Viljoen was waiting. The full-back stepped inside to score the match-winning try, sending the crowd wild.
Tries: Coetzee, McLeod, Viljoen
Con: Lambie 2
Tries: Halai 2, Ranger
Sharks: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Louis Ludik, 12 Butch James, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel (c), 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Edwin Hewitt, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Jandre Marais, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Jacques Botes, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Jaco van Tonder.
Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Francis Saili, 11 George Moala, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Ali Williams (c), 4 Anthony Boric, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 James Parsons, 1 Tim Perry.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Kane Barrett, 19 Brendon O'Connor, 20 Jamison Gibson-Park, 21 Baden Kerr, 22 Rene Ranger.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Tiaan Jonker (South Africa), Reuben Rossouw (South Africa)
Television match official: Willie Roos (South Africa)