Durban - Two tries in three minutes by Bismarck du Plessis and Tonderai
Chavhanga helped the Sharks book their ticket to the Super Rugby
semi-finals with a tense 31-27 victory over the Highlanders in an
enthralling playoff qualifier at Kings Park on Saturday.As it happened: Sharks v Highlanders
crossed in the 53rd and 56th minutes after their side had been stunned
by a fine comeback from the visitors, which saw them lead 17-13 at half-time.
Marcell Coetzee also scored for the Sharks,
while Frans Steyn kicked 16 points in another strong display at flyhalf
with Jake White's men holding on to book a last four meeting against the
Crusaders in Christchurch next week.
They started the game well
enough with a penalty inside the opening 120 seconds when lock Jarrad
Hoeata was caught off-side at a ruck, allowing Steyn to slot over the
The hosts scored the first try after 14 minutes when
they won an attacking lineout and drove forward powerfully, allowing
Coetzee to carry over from the driving maul.
Shortly after Jannie du Plessis had a try disallowed for a double movement as the Sharks took total control of the set-pieces.
the visitors hung in there and finally had their first points after 26
minutes when Lima Sopoaga landed a long-range penalty after Du Plessis
was called for off-side by referee Steve Walsh.
popped over another penalty when flank Shane Christie was caught for
some illegal play at the ruck, Malakai Fekitoa scored the game's
outstanding try when he pierced through a hole on the halfway line as he
latched onto Ben Smith's pass and escaped three tackles to score on the
Steyn struck the post with a penalty attempt three
minutes from the break, before another seething Highlanders attack ended
when All Black centre Fekitoa failed to release.
home crowd was stunned into silence moments after the half-time siren
when Kane Hames scored on the left following an attack that started in
his side's own 22-metre area with Nasi Manu and Hoeata setting the big
prop on his way.
That enabled the Highlanders to lead by four at
the break, a lead that was extended to seven when Sopoaga landed
another penalty after Willem Alberts entered a ruck from the side.
before that Steyn did have the opportunity to cut the gap to one, but
the Sharks opted to set up an attacking lineout that came to nothing.
the game turned on its head during a three-minute spell thereafter when
skipper Bismarck du Plessis and Chavhanga both crossed, the former after the
Highlanders' scrum was again torn to shreds and the latter sprinting
over on the left for his first score of the season.
Dunedin side refused to give in though and regained the lead through
another blistering attacking move as Patrick Osbourne brilliantly
off-loaded to Phil Burleigh to score.
Sopoaga put the Highlanders
in front again, before the Sharks emphatically turned over a scrum on
the visitors' goal-line moments after Jean Deysel knocked on, allowing
Steyn to make it 28-27.
With the returning Patrick Lambie on the
field after nearly four months out injured, the Sharks won another
penalty right in front of the posts, allowing Steyn to kick over and
seal the win.Scorers:
Tries: Marcell Coetzee, Bismarck du Plessis, Tonderai Chavhanga. Conversions: Francois Steyn (2). Penalties: Steyn (4)
Tries: Malakai Fekitoa, Kane Hames, Phil Burleigh. Conversions: Sopoaga (3). Penalties: Sopoaga (2)
15 SP Marais, 14 Sibusiso Sithole, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Paul Jordaan, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Frans Steyn, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Ettienne Oosthuizen, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (captain), 1 Thomas du Toit
Substitutes: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Tera Mtembu, 20 Jean Deysel, 21 Charl McLeod, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Tonderai Chavhanga
15 Ben Smith (co-captain), 14 Richard Buckman, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu (co-captain), 7 Shane Christie, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Chris King, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Kane Hames
Substitutes: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Matias Diaz, 18 JP Koen, 19 Josh Bekhuis, 20 Tom Franklin, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Trent Renata, 23 Gareth Evans