The Sharks were made to work very hard for a 31-24 Currie Cup win over a spirited Griquas outfit in Kimberley on Saturday.
The defending champions may have come away with the positive result but they will rue missing out on a bonus point having played with an extra man for over 70 minutes.
Indeed, the result looked as good as settled after just seven minutes when Griquas centre Jonathan Francke was shown a straight red card by referee Craig Joubert for a dangerous tip tackle on SP Marais.
The Griquas deserve massive credit for matching their visitors in scoring three tries and saving a losing bonus point in a never-say-die effort.
The Sharks led 18-3 at the interval thanks to tries from fly-half Fred Zeilinga and centre Paul Jordaan.
But, amazingly, the hosts launched a second-half comeback to cut the deficit to just four points in the dying minutes! With the score at 24-28, an injury-time penalty for the Sharks sealed the victory.
An early scrum penalty allowed Griquas Nico Scheepers to put the home side 3-0 ahead. The scrums would be a mess for the duration of the match.
Despite their numerical advantage, the Sharks had to wait until after the half-hour mark to score the first try as Zeilinga rounded off a flowing move in the corner to add to his two previous penalties.
With half-time looming large, Jordaan slalomed his way over to give the Sharks some breathing room at the break.
Sharks prop Thomas du Toit saw yellow for a professional foul soon after the restart but Zeilinga's third penalty kept the scoreboard ticking as the Griquas wasted a handful of chances.
However flank Marnus Schoeman crashed over just before the hour mark to give the hosts hope.
The Sharks replied immediately though as Zeilinga put Sibusiso Sithole away and the speedster raced home from long range.
Carel Greeff found his way over in the corner with Scheepers' conversion making it an 11-point game.
With the clock running down,Francois Brummer's cross-field kick saw replacement Edries Arendse beat Marais in the air to touch down.
Scheepers added the extras to set up a grandstand finish, but Zeilinga had the last laugh, slotting the late penalty to secure the win.
Tries: Schoeman, Greeff, Arendse
Cons: Scheepers 3
Red card: Francke
Tries: Zeilinga, Jordaan, Sithole
Cons: Zeilinga 2
Pens: Zeilinga 4
Yellow card: Du Toit
Griquas: 15 Nico Scheepers, 14 Danie Dames, 13 Jonathan Francke, 12 Wayne Stevens, 11 Rocco Jansen, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Carel Greeff, 7 Hilton Lobberts, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Jaco Nepgen, 4 Boela Serfontein, 3 Maks van Dyk, 2 Ryno Barnes, 1 Steph Roberts.
Replacements: 16 Simon Westraadt, 17 Ewald van der Westhuizen, 18 Hugo Kloppers, 19 RJ Liebenberg, 20 Abrie Griesel, 21 Marais Schmidt, 22 Ederies Arendse.
Sharks: 15 SP Marais, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 S'bura Sithole, 12 Paul Jordaan, 11 Tonderai Chavhanga, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Cameron Wright, 8 Tera Mtembu (c), 7 Etienne Oosthuizen, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Marco Wentzel, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Replacements: 16 Monde Hadebe, 17 Dale Chadwick , 18 Matt Stevens, 19 JC Astle, 20 Francois Kleinhans, 21 Hanco Venter, 22 Lionel Cronje.
Referee: Craig Joubert