It may have been a dark day for the Sharks Super Rugby side in Durban on Saturday, but there was a little joy earlier in the day when Jandre Marais led the Sharks XV to a scrappy, but hugely significant, 24-23 win over reigning Vodacom cup champions Western Province in Cape Town.
In a see-sawing match played in tricky conditions, it was the Sharks XV who played the big points better, outscoring their hosts by three tries to two in the process. Having weathered an early storm, made more difficult by the 16th-minute yellow card shown to Marius Joubert, the Sharks XV scored two tries in the first half, through in-form wingers S’bura Sithole and Sizo Maseko. Maseko’s tally now stands at three in two games, leaving him as joint second highest try scorer on the competition table.
Flyhalf Fred Zeilinga converted both tries, with Province counterpart Gary van Aswegen adding three penalties to see the Sharks XV lead 14-9 at the break.
Province started the second half better, edging ahead via a try by Michael van der Spuy, before Zeilinga put the Sharks XV back in front (albeit by a single point) with a penalty kick. An ugly clash of heads between props then saw both Allan Dell and Dylan Rogers red-carded, although the feeling is that the assistant ref may have completely overreacted to an accidental incident in this case. Both teams thus soldiered on with 14 men apiece, before Province appeared to have struck the winning blow, in scoring through number 8 Rayn Smid. That score say them lead by 23 points to 17 as the game entered it’s final 10 minutes.
The last laugh was to belong to the Sharks, though, with two players on opposite ends of the experience scale showing great composure to pull it out of the fire. First was veteran fullback Riaan Viljoen, a real stand-out player on the day, who scored a great try in the 83rd minute to narrow the gap to a single point. Up stepped youngster Zeilinga, who showed his readiness for bigger rugby in slotting the tricky touchline conversion to win the game. Zeilinga remains the competition’s top points scorer and the result maintains the Sharks XV’s position at the top of the South Section log.
The Sharks XV next take on Free State in a home game that will serve as the curtain raiser to Saturday’s Super Rugby clash between the Sharks and the Rebels.
Western Province (23): Tries by Michael van der Spuy, Rayn Smid. Conversions: Gary van Aswegen (2). Penalties: van Aswegen (3)
Sharks XV (24): Tries by S’bura Sithole, Sizo Maseko, Riaan Viljoen. Conversions: Fred Zeilinga (3). Penalty: Zeilinga