The Sharks managed to beat the Leopards 23-3 in what was an unconvincing Currie Cup victory at Durban's Kings Park on Friday.
Odwa Ndungane scored a brace of second-half tries as the Sharks overcame a wretched first half display on their way to a stuttering win.
The defending champions took more than 30 minutes to break the deadlock despite playing against 14 men for 10 minutes during that period and the scoreline would have been even tighter had Stefan Terblanche not crossed in the closing stages.
The win kept John Plumtree's men, who scored more than 50 points in each of their two meetings against the same opponents last season, in second place on the log.
At Kings Park, though, the Sharks struggled.
They spent almost all of the opening 10 minutes camped out in the visitors' half, despite most of the time being taken up by referee Lourens van der Merwe resetting the scrums.
With 15 minutes on the clock, the men from Rustenburg did not help their cause with Brendon Snyman sent to the bin for a tip tackle.
Frederic Michalak then missed a straight-forward penalty, before the men in black and white had their first real try-scoring chance with the half-hour mark looming.
A quickly-taken free kick by Conrad Hoffmann five metres out saw the advancing maul held up just short to the frustration of the partisan home crowd.
The deadlock was eventually broken in the 33rd minute when Michalak made no mistake from bang in front, with another sustained attack forcing the Leopards to err.
He landed a second three-pointer four minutes before the break to double the advantage after the visiting forwards were called for deliberately holding up play.
It remained 6-0 at the break, but the pressure eventually told with Ndungane going over in the 49th minute after collecting the ball on the left with attack outnumbering defence.
Michalak added the conversion, before the introduction of regulars Adrian Jacobs, Alistair Hargreaves and Keegan Daniel.
However, that too failed to provide them with a spark as the Leopards grabbed their only points of the game via a penalty from number 10 Wesley Dunlop.
Joubert Engelbrecht then offered the home side another chance to play against 14 men when he was yellow-carded for a deliberate knock down and from the ensuing penalty Ndungane skipped his way past two defenders on the right and lunged in for his second score.
The conversion was missed this time and to sum up their poor display, the home side had captain Daniel sent to the bin four minutes from the end for a tip tackle.
Replacement Terblanche added a late try to give the crowd something to cheer with his side ending with a lame victory.
Tries: Ndungane 2, Terblanche
Pens: Michalak 2
Sharks: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Marius Joubert, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Sibusiso Sithole, 10 Frederic Michalak, 9 Conrad Hoffmann, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Jacques Botes (c), 5 Ross Skeate, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Eugene van Staden, 18 Alistair Hargreaves, 19 Keegan Daniel, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Adrian Jacobs, 22 Stefan Terblanche.
Leopards: 15 George Tossel, 14 Hoffman Maritz, 13 Jovan Bowles, 12 Joubert Engelbrecht, 11 Vainon Willis, 10 Wesley Dunlop, 9 Theo van Wyk, 8 MornÃ© Hanekom, 7 Luvuyiso Lusaseni, 6 Victor Joubert, 5 Brad Mockford, 4 Brendan Snyman, 3 Stefan Bezuidenhout, 2 Jacques Moller, 1 Bennie Uys.
Replacements: Marius Fourie, 17 Dewald Coetzee, 18 John-Roy Jenkins, 19 Christo van Niekerk, 20 Spanner Pretorius, 21 Johan Laker, 22 Hennie Skorbinski.
Referee: Lourens van der Merwe