The Sharks kept up a mathematical chance of a place in the Super 14 semi-finals with a 24-17 win over the Stormers in Durban on Saturday.
With one round of matches remaining the Sharks are five points behind the ACT Brumbies, who lost at home to the Highlanders earlier in the day.
But the Sharks’ points difference is 39 worse than the Brumbies so only a massive victory over the Western Force in their final match and a big Crusaders victory over the Brumbies will see the South Africans through to the last four.
In a swirling wind throughout the match the Sharks knew that they had to score four tries to claim the bonus point, and the way they began there was little doubt that it was their first objective.
They ultimately fell short of their target and in the end did well to hang on for the victory as the Stormers finished much stronger with the wind at their backs.
The home team enjoyed nearly 75 percent possession in the half and managed two tries before the break — through fullback Percy Montgomery and flank Jacques Botes — to make the perfect start.
Although the visitors enjoyed parity in the second half the home team stuck to their task of searching for tries by spurning a few kickable penalty chances.
Their persistence paid off the 62nd minute when replacement wing Waylon Murray cleverly scored in the corner under a heavy tackle from opposite number Ryno Benjamin.
But with time running out the Stormers continued to thwart the Sharks best efforts and put the home team under increasing pressure by scoring two second half tries.
Benjamin went over in the 59th minute with a beautifully angled run and number eight Joe van Niekerk crashed over the line from close range in the 70th minute to keep the Stormers in the match.
As the hooter sounded for the end of the game the Sharks launched one last desperate attack from deep in their territory in search of the fourth try and a bonus point. But a knock ended the move and realistically their hopes of a place in the last four.