Durban - Keegan Daniel scored three tries to help the Sharks to a hard-fought 27-17 win (half-time 10-17) over the Pumas in their Absa Currie Cup match at Absa Stadium in Durban on Friday.
Eighthman Daniel was one of the few shining lights for the Sharks as it took the much-fancied hosts until the 55th minute before they took the lead for the first time in the match.
The home side’s cause was not helped by a plethora of handling errors and turnovers that stymied their attacking ambitions while the Pumas turned in a magnificent defensive effort.
Daniel received admirable support from his hooker Craig Burden who carried the ball well and at times looked like a human pinball as he bounced his way out of tackles.
The Pumas’ effort was led by lock Eduan van der Walt who turned in a huge performance as he carried the ball strongly while also grabbing his share of lineout ball.
However, it would be churlish to single out just one Pumas’ player as the visitors risked life and limb as they threw themselves into the collision points with something approaching reckless abandon.
Daniel is in a rich vein of form and his hat-trick came on the back of the two tries he scored against the Bulls in the Sharks’ previous match.
The match had been evenly poised at 17-17 before Pumas’ replacement loose forward Jaco Bouwer earned himself a yellow card for killing the ball five metres from his own tryline.
The Sharks were quick to take advantage and Daniel scored his second try of the evening when he went over from the resulting lineout.
Bouwer’s return to the field was short lived and, with less than 10 minutes left in the contest, he earned himself his second yellow card, and thus a red, when he prevented the Sharks from taking a quick tap penalty.
With three minutes left in the match Daniel clinched his hat-trick, and his team’s bonus point for four tries, when he took a scoring pass from replacement lock Ross Skeate to wrap up the evening’s scoring.
The Pumas had been the first team to strike, in the 18th minute, when a quick tap penalty saw eighthman Christo Le Roux set off from just inside his own half.
The powerfully built loose forward shrugged off two tackles before scoring a wonderful individual try.
Try as they might the hosts were unable to breach their opponents defence but the last 10 minutes of the first half saw the match burst into life.
The Sharks, who had already turned down three kickable penalty attempts, finally achieved some success when Daniel was mauled over the Pumas’ tryline after the home side had kicked to the corner and won the resulting lineout ball to draw the scores level.
Two minutes later Pumas’ flyhalf Ricardo Croy nailed a long-range drop goal before Sharks’ inside centre Pat Lambie succeeded with his only penalty of the evening.
But the visitors were growing in confidence and, in the dying seconds of the half, loosehead prop Ronnie Uys barrelled his way over for a converted try as the underdogs went to the break holding a 17-10 lead.
The Sharks began the second half with far more intent and it took them less than five minutes to level the scores thanks to a converted try from Charl McLeod with the scrumhalf going over after yet another break from Burden.
Tries: Keegan Daniel (3), Charl McLeod
Conversions: Patrick Lambie (2)
Tries: Christo Le Roux, Ronnie Uys
Conversions: Ricardo Croy (2)
Drop goal: Croy