The Sharks showed their hunger for a Super Rugby play-offs spot with a pulsating 32-10 win over the Bulls at Kings Park in Durban.
The Sharks showed their hunger for a Super Rugby play-offs spot with a pulsating 32-10 bonus-point win over the Bulls at Kings Park in Durban on Friday.
In an enthralling contest played at a furious pace, the home side banked maximum points to keep their play-off hopes alive with just one round of the tournament remaining.
Any thoughts that the Sharks would be rusty following their bye and a four-week break prior to that, were quickly dispelled as the hosts dominated proceedings from the kick-off with powerful runs and bone-crunching hits forcing the Bulls on the backfoot.
The Sharks were rewarded with their early dominance when Bismarck du Plessis took a pass from Marcell Coetzee close to the line and the Bok hooker didn't need a second invitation as he ploughed his way over for the opening try of the match.
Frederic Michalak added the tricky conversion and the Sharks were looking good at 7-0.
It took the Bulls 15 minutes to make their way inside the Sharks half, and they made it count when Morne Steyn managed to put his side on the board with a simple penalty that closed the gap to four points.
Both teams went at it hammer and tongs, but it was the Sharks who once again held the upper hand on attack and defence. It proved too much for the Bulls as the visitors allowed the returning Francois Steyn a chance at adding three more points to his team's tally from 50m out, and the Sharks' rocket-launcher didn't disappoint.
Leading by seven points, the Sharks struck again with their second try of the match after sustained pressure on the Bulls line ended with JP Pietersen dotting down in the corner. The in-form Springbok speedster only had Bulls prop Dean Greyling to beat, as Charl McLeod went blind and fed his team-mate for a well-worked touchdown.
Once again Michalak made no mistake from out wide with the conversion attempt and the Bulls suddenly had some serious work to do after trailing 17-3.
It didn't get any better for the Bulls after Michalak slotted over a penalty from bang in front to take the Sharks into a commanding seventeen-point (20-3) lead with nine minutes of the first half to play.
The Bulls finally hit their straps and threatened to score out wide only for a try-saving tackle on Akona Ndungane denying the winger what looked like a certain try in the corner.
The Sharks went into the half-time sheds with their tails up and only 40 minutes seperated them from a crucial win to keep their finals hopes alive in the tournament.
The second half was as physical but just as gripping as the first, as the men in black came out firing after the break. And it didn't take long for the Sharks to cross the whitewash yet again when captain Keegan Daniel went over thanks to some excellent build-up work by Jannie du Plessis and Steyn.
This time Michalak was off-target with the extras, but at 25-3 the home support certainly weren't complaining.
Nerves did creep in however when Bulls full-back Zane Kirchner gave the visitors a glimmer of hope with a converted try on the 50-minute mark.
The Bulls looked the better of the two sides as the clock ticked down, but the Sharks dug deep for the all-important fourth try when full-back Louis Ludik brought the Kings Park crowd to their feet after going over in the 77th minute.
Replacement back Meyer Bosman then hammered the final nail into the visitors' coffin with his conversion to seal a memorable victory for the hosts.
Tries: B Du Plessis, Pietersen, Daniel, Ludik
Cons: Michalak 2, Bosman
Pens: Steyn, Michalak
Sharks: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Tim Whitehead, 12 Francois Steyn, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Frederic Michalak, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Keegan Daniel (c), 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Jandre Marais, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Cobus Reinach, 21 Meyer Bosman, 22 Odwa Ndungane.
Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies (c), 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 Dewald Potgieter, 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 CJ Stander, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Louis Fouche, 22 Francois Venter.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
By Dave Morris