Nelspruit - They left it late, but the Sharks secured a 27-25 win over the Pumas in an entertaining Currie Cup clash in Nelspruit on Friday.
The win solidifies the Sharks' position on top of the log and it is their seventh successive win in the competition.
It was far from a clinical display from the visitors as discipline let them down throughout the contest, but in the end they got the job done and have taken a step closer towards home ground advantage in the play-offs.
The Pumas started strongly and had a try inside the opening five minutes through wing Ruwellyn Isbell, and they stretched that lead to 8-0 through a Kobus Marais penalty soon after.
The Sharks, showing plenty of attacking intent, had to wait until the 17th minute for their first points when flyhalf Curwin Bosch slotted a penalty.
The visitors then began to gather some momentum and two tries in the space of 10 minutes, through Sbu Nkosi and then Jeremy Ward, gave them a 15-8 lead.
When Sharks hooker Akker van de Merwe was sin-binned for a professional foul, the Pumas were well-positioned to strike.
The hosts spent the majority of the final 10 minutes camped on the Sharks line, but they could not convert into points.
The numerical disadvantage got even worse for the Sharks on the stroke of half-time when lock Tyler Paul was also sin-binned, leaving coach Robert du Preez's side with 13 men on the field when the second half resumed.
The Pumas started the second half like they did the first, and after a sustained period of attack space eventually opened up down the right flank for JP Lewis, who finished well.
Marais kicked a good conversion from out right, and the scores were locked at 15-15 after 47 minutes.
Then, after a fantastic attacking move and with the Sharks still down to 14 men, the Pumas hit the front when quick passing and intelligent running saw Chris Cloete offload to captain Hennie Skorbinski, who scored.
Another successful Marais conversion gave the Pumas a 22-15 lead heading into the final half hour, and the flyhalf was able to immediately make that 25-15 when he converted a shot at goal from the restart on the half-way line because of a Sharks infringement as the try was scored.
It was an uphill battle for the Sharks from there, but they battled away and ended up getting their third try through substitute Wian Vosloo.
Garth April knocked over the conversion, and the Sharks were back in it at 25-22 as the final 10 minutes drew near.
April then provided the match-winning moment for the Sharks when, with just five minutes to go, he broke through the line and played a skillful offload to Rhyno Smith, who cantered through to the line.
April missed the conversion, but the Sharks had pulled off the comeback to win 27-25.
Pumas 25 (8)
Tries: Ruwellyn Isbell, JP Lewis, Hennie Skorbinski
Penalties: Kobus Marais (2)
Conversions: Marais (2)
Sharks 27 (15)
Tries: Sbu Nkosi, Jeremy Ward, Wian Vosloo
Conversions: Curwin Bosch, Garth April, Rhyno Smith
15 Justin van Staden, 14 JP Lewis, 12 Jerome Pretorius, 12 Hennie Skorbinski (captain), 11 Ruwellyn Isbell, 10 Kobus Marais, 9 Reynier van Rooyen, 8 Willie Engelbrecht, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 Cameron Lindsay, 4 Stefan Willemse, 3 Pieter Scholtz, 2 Mark Pretorius, 1 De-Jay Terblanche
Substitutes: 16 Frankie Herne, 17 Khwezi Mona, 18 Hugo Kloppers, 19 Brian Shabangu, 20 Theo Mare, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 Devon Williams
15 Garth April, 14 Tythan Adams, 13 Jeremy Ward, 12 Lukhanyo Am, 11 Sibusiso Nkosi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Tera Mtembu, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Ruan Botha (captain), 4 Tyler Paul, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Armand van der Merwe, 1 Thomas du Toit
Substitutes: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Jean Droste, 19 Wian Vosloo, 20 Michael Claassens, 21 Marius Louw, 22 Rhyno Smith