The Vodacom Stormers led for most of the game, but in the end two yellow cards cost them the game against the Sharks, who fought back for a 12-10 victory in their second round Vodacom Super 14 match in Durban on Saturday.
The Stormers led 10-0 at halftime of a pulsating, action-packed game, but the Sharks timed their run to the finishing line to perfection to snatch it from the determined visitors.
The Cape side hit last year’s beaten finalists with everything they’ve got and in the end maybe deserved more. They took the Sharks on in every facet of the game – disrupting their scrum once or twice by clever wheeling, poaching two lineout balls from the Sharks, putting in the better rolling mauls and tackling like demons.
They also repelled the much-vaunted Sharks rolling maul effectively. It was a hugely physical game and a number of big hits were made.
In the end the yellow cards in the second half – against flanker Schalk Burger and replacement centre Dylan des Fountain – took its toll. Touch judge Willie Roos intervened and was instrumental in Burger getting his marching orders in the 47th minute for interfering when two players were involved in a scuffle.
A furious Burger had to spend ten minutes in the sin bin, but during his absence the Sharks could only manage to score 3 points via a Ruan Pienaar penalty to make the score 10-3.
The Stormers scored the only try of the match in the 22nd minute after clever play between hooker Tiaan Liebenberg and scrumhalf Enrico Januarie. Liebenberg threw the ball at Januarie at the front of the lineout and the No 9 quickly gave the ball back to his hooker, who determinedly charged up-field.
From the ruck the ball went right and left again. Flyhalf Peter Grant was stopped within inches off the try-line, but from the next ruck Januarie dived over. Grant converted to give the Stormers the early ascendancy (7-0).
The Sharks kickers battled and Pienaar (19th) and then Francois Steyn (31) failed with penalty attempts.
In the 40th minute the Stormers produced a fantastic maul and the Sharks transgressed in their desperate attempt to halt it, giving Grant the opportunity to stretch the lead to 10-0. That was the halftime score.
The Sharks brought on Springbok prop Jannie du Plessis at halftime, taking over from Tendai Mtawarira. In the 41st minute Stormers outside centre Gcobani Bobo limped off the field, seeing the introduction of Des Fountain.
In the 47th disaster struck for the Stormers when the fiery Burger had to go and Pienaar coolly slotted the penalty. A few minutes later Ross Skeate entered the fray at lock in place of Adriaan Fondse and Brok Harris replaced a bloodied Brian Mujati at prop.
In the 57th the Sharks had a chance to eat into the lead, but replacement scrumhalf Rory Kockott fluffed the penalty attempt. In the 60th Kockott however made no mistake after Conrad Jantjes was caught with his hands in a ruck.
In the 66th minute Schalk Brits replaced flank Francois Louw and Mujati returned. Then Des Fountain got his marching orders in the 66th and Kockott kicked a penalty that put the game on a knife’s edge.
In the 70th minute a high tackle from Stormers No 8 Luke Watson on Kockott led to the latter slotting the penalty that handed his side the lead for the first time (12-10).
That was ultimately the kick that gave the Sharks their second consecutive win in this year’s competition and their third in a row over their Cape adversaries.
Rassie Erasmus and his team can hold their heads high after this performance. They put up a brave performance and showed a lot of improvement on last weekend’s outing against the Bulls.
They however face another tough test the coming weekend when take on the highly impressvie Crusaders at Newlands.
Vodacom Stormers – Try: Enrico Januarie; Conversion: Peter Grant; Penalty: Peter Grant Sharks – Penalties: Ruan Pienaar, Rory Kockott (3).