The Blues' unbeaten start to the Super 14 came to an end in Durban on Saturday, with a brace of tries from Keegan Daniel helping the home side make it four from four with a 22-17 win.
The Sharks could not have got off to a better start in a match that was played at a frantic pace and with a frightening degree of physicality.
Daniel chased the kick-off, and caught the tap back from Bismarck du Plessis, before haring off down the pitch to score. Barely 20 seconds were on the clock. Rory Kockott's conversion bounced back off the upright, but the damage was done, both to the scorecard and to the Blues' morale.
So much for their 50 points-a-game record, the Blues were a shadow of their usual selves. Ball was spilled in the backs, supporters were not found with offloads, and players failed to find any gaps in resolute and numerous Sharks defence.
The Sharks had less ball, but were cleverer with it, and scored their second try after 20 minutes when Brad Barritt's grubber went beyond the final defender and into the grateful arms of Johann Muller. Rory Kockott converted this time to make it 12-0.
12-0 against the Blues was surprise enough, but Daniel was not done yet with his first-half heroics. A penalty in the Blues' 22 was taken quickly by the flanker, and he rushed over the line with a swarm of Blues defenders hanging off him.
Nick Evans reduced the arrears with a penalty moments before half time, but the Blues were a deserved second best at the break, 19-3 down.
Evans began the second half on a brighter note for the Blues, stepping his way through for a try under the posts, which he converted himself, and the visitors woke up. more possession came their way, more territory too, and far more cool decision-making from their key players. The Sharks still swarmed, but it remained to be seen how long the teams would hold out.
As the half wore on, the teams wilted. Tackles were easier to make, simply because the teams and players could not run with the necessary verve any more. Eventually, Troy Flavell, after a terrific break from Adi Jacobs, conceded a penalty, and Kockott slotted it to make it 22-10.
Again the Blues were stung into action, and back they came, with every man throwing every pound of flesh he could find at the home side. Eventually replacement scrum-half Taniela Moa found his way to the try-line, and Evans converted, leaving the Blues now only one score short at 22-17.
For the final seven minutes, the Blues ran at the Sharks in the energy-sapping humidity, but again the limbs began to tire and the defenders held strong. Freddie Michalak picked up a loose ball off the side of a ruck and was tackled into touch, sending the Absa Stadium into uproar as the final whistle blew.
Man of the match: It can only be Keegan Daniel, for a magnificent and energetic display in attack and defence.
For the Sharks:
Tries: Daniel 2, Muller
Cons: Kockott 2
For the Blues:
Tries: Evans, Moa
Cons : Evans 2
The Sharks: 15 Francois Steyn, 14 Stefan Terblanche, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Bradley Barritt, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Frédéric Michalak, 9 Rory Kockott, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Jacques Botes, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Johann Muller (c), 4 Albert van den Berg, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Jannie du Plessis
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Tendai Mtawarira, 18 Steven Sykes, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Charl Mcleod, 21 Adrian Jacobs, 22 Odwa Ndungane
Blues: 15 Ben Atiga, 14 Anthony Tuitavake, 13 Isaia Toeava, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Joe Rokocoko, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Lee, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Justin Collins, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Troy Flavell ,4 Kurtis Haiu, 3 John Afoa, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock,
Replacements: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Bronson Murray, 18 Bryn Evans, 19 Onosa'i Tololima-Auva'a, 20 Taniela Moa, 21 Rudi Wulf, 22 George Pisi.
Referee: Brett Bowden (Australia)
Touch judges: Julian Pritchard (Australia), Joey Salmans (South Africa)
Television match official: Johan Meuwesen (South Africa)
Assessor: Arrie Schoonwinkel (South Africa)