John Plumtree’s Sharks finally found an 80-minute performance and put in their best all-round team display of the year right when it mattered this evening. Emerging 26-23 victors over the Bulls in a tense encounter at Loftus Versveld, it’s the men in black who will progress to next week’s Super Rugby finals series.
The Sharks hit the Bulls hard from the first whistle to the last and in a dong-dong battle where no quarter was asked or given, the visitors just shaded the breakdown situation and the scrums. The Bulls were imperious at lineout time as always, but a combination of costly knocks – many of which were forced through good Sharks pressure tackle – and silly penalties allowed the Sharks to get their noses in front and keep them there virtually all game.
With Pat Lambie having an uncharacteristically off day with the boot – thanks in no small part to the idiot in the crowd shining a laser pointer in his eyes before every kick, Fred Michalak stepped up in the second half to keep the scoreboard ticking over. A try to each side in either half effectively cancelled each other out – first it was Stefan Terblanhce who scored for the Sharks after Keegan Daniel put JP Pietersen into space with a lovely inside pass, before Gerhard van den Heever scored one of his own on the stroke of halftime after the Bulls stretched the Sharks out wide. With the Sharks clinging onto the slenderest of tree-point leads for most of the second half, they appeared to finally be clear when Lambie combined with Meyer Bosman and Ryan Kankowski to put Lwazi Mvovo over in the corner. The Bulls, though, hit back straight away with a carbon-copy score to Francois Hougaard, but they were unable to score again and the Sharks eventually prevailed by the same three-point margin they had held at half time.
Bulls (23) – Tries by van den Heever, Hougaard. Morne Steyn hit 2 conversions and 3 penalties.
Sharks (26) – Tries by Terblanche and Mvovo. Pat Lambie hit a conversion and 2 penalties. Michalak a drop-goal, a conversion and a penalty.