Durban - The Sharks brought a smile to coach Brad Macleod-Henderson's face as they snatched a late 18-16 victory over the Blue Bulls in their match at Loftus Versfeld on Friday evening.
The coastal side heads into the last round of the competition knowing they have improved their chances of claiming the Currie Cup title.
“I am delighted with the win, I think we played pretty well in the first half, if a few more passes stuck then we would have been in for a few more tries,” Macleod-Henderson said.
“There are a few areas we still need to work on but we’ve got some nice momentum going now and we are looking forward to Western Province next week.”
While the Sharks cemented their place in the playoffs, the Bulls found some comfort in winning a single bonus point and they still have one more chance of reaching the playoffs in their last match of the regular season against the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein next week.
After Friday’s match the Bulls moved past the Cheetahs on the log with the side’s level on 17 points but the Bloemfontein side still had a match in hand against Griquas on Saturday.
Next week’s match in the City of Roses will be a decider for either team irrespective of what happened in the Cheetahs’ match against their central-South Africa neighbours.
“We have to go there and put up a fight and see what happens, we are still in reach, so if it means that we have to beat them by 40 points that is the challenge,” Bulls coach Pienaar said after the match.
“We put ourselves in the position that we are in, so we have to make sure next week we get our focus up and we are still in with a shot. It may be a long shot but we are still in with a shot.”
Pienaar once again rued his side’s missed opportunities and was left frustrated with his charges as they struggled particularly at the lineouts and the breakdowns.
“We are still in touch but it is disappointing, two-and-a-half minutes left and you are ahead and you lose the game by a silly decision at the breakdown,” Pienaar said.
“I’m not happy with tonight I thought we really played well at stages and from where we started in the beginning of the season up to where we are now, this side has made huge strides.”
Neither side showed any sign of dominance in an error-ridden match with the teams going into the half-time break with the Sharks leading by a slender three points.
The Bulls took a four-point lead with 14 points left in the match, but two consecutive penalty conversions by replacement flyhalf Butch James in the last 10 minutes wrapped the game up.
While the Sharks pulled through for a victory, they made hard work of it as they conceded two yellow cards either side of the break with Jacques Botes and Jean Deysel receiving their marching orders.
Macleod-Henderson said he was nevertheless proud of his charges for winning a tight match despite the two yellow cards.
“There were a few opportunities that didn’t go our way and if they had, then we would have been very happy with the result,” he said.
“It just shows the character of the guys, two yellow cards and we still got a very tight win.
“Discipline was an area that didn’t work well for us tonight but it is something we will look at this week.”