The Sharks beat the Blue Bulls 48-40 at Loftus on Saturday to qualify for the Currie Cup semi-finals. SIMON BORCHARDT reports.
The fourth-placed Sharks will face the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein next weekend, with the Golden Lions hosting Griquas. Western Province, who lost to Free State earlier in the day, finished fifth, and the Bulls sixth.
For a while, it looked as if the Bulls might do Province a favour by beating the Sharks, but a red card to Johnny Kotze for a dangerous tackle on Kobus van Wyk late in the first half ended any realistic hopes they had of winning the match.
Kotze had started the game so well, brushing off three tackles to score under the posts for the Bulls.
Sanele Nohamba’s second penalty for the Sharks was followed by the hosts’ second try, with Lizo Gqoboka going over from close range.
The Sharks turned down a shot at goal, which paid off when Thomas du Toit claimed their first try.
No sooner had the Bulls scored a self-converted try through Manie Libbok than Aphelele Fassi counter-attacked for the Sharks and put Jacques Vermeulen away.
The Bulls were then reduced to 14 men for the rest of the match when Kotze was red-carded. André Esterhuizen scored in the last play of the half as the Sharks took a 27-21 lead.
Jeremy Ward chased down JP Pietersen’s grubber through the defence to score the Sharks’ fourth try early in the second half, before Van Wyk dived over to make it 41-21.
Cornal Hendricks’ try stopped the rot for the Bulls and prevented them from having to contest a promotion-relegation match. And they then got right back into the game when Ruan Steenkamp scored a converted try, although Libbok had his conversion charged down.
But the Sharks secured the win when Rhyno Smith dotted down with five minutes to go and celebrated with a cartwheel that would have made Breyton Paulse proud.
The Bulls did finish strongly, though, with Tim Agaba scoring a consolation try.
Blue Bulls – Tries: Johnny Kotze, Lizo Gqoboka, Manie Libbok, Cornal Hendricks, Ruan Steenkamp, Tim Agaba. Conversions: Libbok (4), Vaughen Isaacs.
Sharks – Tries: Thomas du Toit, Jacques Vermeulen, André Esterhuizen, JP Pietersen, Kobus van Wyk, Rhyno Smith. Conversions: Sanele Nohamba (4), Rhyno Smith. Penalties: Nohamba (2).
Blue Bulls – 15 Divan Rossouw, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Dylan Sage, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Ivan van Zyl (c), 8 Tim Agaba, 7 Wian Vosloo, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Subs: 16 Corniel Els, 17 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 18 Conraad van Vuuren, 19 Jean Droste, 20 Ruan Steenkamp, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Vaughen Isaacs, 23 Stedman Gans.
Sharks – 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Jeremy Ward (co-c), 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Boeta Chamberlain, 9 Sanele Nohamba, 8 Tera Mtembu (co-c), 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Phepsi Buthelezi, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Subs: 16 Dylan Richardson, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Gideon Koegelenberg, 20 Andisa Ntsila, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Rhyno Smith, 23 JP Pietersen.
Photo: Christiaan Kotze/BackpagePix