A good 27-6 victory over Western Province, thus completing the double after an 18-14 win at Newlands earlier in the season, has allowed the Sharks under 21 side to virtually sew up a home semi-final. With only two rounds left to play, the Sharks hold a 6-log-point advantage over their rivals from the Cape and will need one more win from their last two encounters to ensure a top two finish.
A late blow to the Sharks saw points machine Fred Zeilinga replaced by the equally talented Gavin Hauptfleisch just before kick-off. In a tense first-half, played in driving rain, the visitors edged the kicking contest and it was Western Province who led 6-3 at half time.
The second period belonged to the Sharks, though, with fullback Jaco van Tonder, flank Khaya Majola and wing Piet Lindeque scoring tries in a display that put their opponents to the sword. Hauptfleisch converted all three scores and added a further penalty to ensure a comfortable 21-point win, but the Sharks just failed to really drive home the advantage by scoring the bonus point try, despite coming close on a few occasions.
The Sharks face the Blue Bulls away next week and while they could theoretically overhaul the men from Pretoria and claim top spot should they secure a bonus point win, the reality of the competition format is that they’d do just as well to finish second, since the final will be played at the same venue as the Currie Cup final, regardless of which side tops the under 19 log. That scenario makes the Sharks’ final league match, against the Leoaprds at Kings Park, a far more important one to win than this coming weekend’s outing to Loftus.
Scorers: Sharks U21 (27): Tries by Jaco van Tonder, Khaya Majola and wing Piet Lindeque. Converions: Gavin Hauptfleish (3). Penalties: Hauptfleish(2).
Western Province U21 (6): Penalties: Nicholas Holton, Timmo Swiel.