Cape Town - The Pumas have dealt the Sharks' hopes of defending their Currie Cup title a massive blow after staging a stunning second half comeback in their clash in Nelspruit on Saturday.
As it happened: Pumas v Sharks
The Pumas won 27-20 after the Sharks led 17-9 at half-time.
Chris Smith carried the Pumas with his boot, kicking five penalties and a conversion to lift his side to victory even though the Sharks scored more tries.
The home side began the game well and took the lead through the boot of Smith, but their momentum was thoroughly halted in the ninth minute when Willie Engelbrecht was sent to the sin-bin for an illegal cleanout at the breakdown.
With a man advantage, the Sharks looked a completely different side and were suddenly playing with plenty of confidence.
Lwazi Mvovo scored a try in the 10th minute following a flowing backline move from the men from KwaZulu-Natal. The game remained close, though, as Curwin Bosch missed the conversion.
The visitors then pounced on some sloppy play to extend their lead as Kobus van Wyk scooped up a loose ball around the halfway line and burst into the wide open space to score. This time Bosch was accurate, taking the score to 12-3 to the Sharks.
Smith chipped away at the lead with a 23rd minute penalty, but the away team stamped their authority on the match once again around the half hour mark.
Bosch stepped through a wide gap in the Pumas defence to score their third try of the game. He missed the conversion and Smith added another penalty to bring the score to 17-9 at half time.
Perhaps suffering from a bit of over-confidence, the Sharks were caught out instantly at the start of the second period.
Francois Kleinhans stepped into the line to intercept a lazy pass inside the Sharks' 22 and score the Pumas' first try. Smith knocked over the conversion to make it 17-16.
Smith and Bosch traded penalties before the home side regained the lead in the 55th minute.
The Pumas showed great patience and ball retention, and the Sharks line eventually broke to the continuous pressure with Simon Westraadt stretching over the line to dot the ball down.
Smith missed the kick, but did add another penalty in the 75th minute after Craig Burden was yellow-carded for foul play.
The two sides threw caution to the wind in the final 20 minutes of the game with little to no reward, but it was very entertaining to watch.
The card to Burden all but spelled the end for the Sharks, who continue to struggle in the 2019 Currie Cup.
The Pumas picked up four points for their victory - their first of the season - and moved to fifth in the standings.
The Sharks left with a single point for losing by seven or fewer points, and slipped to sixth in the log at the halfway stage.
In next weekend's matches the Pumas travel to Newlands in Cape Town to face Western Province (Friday, August 9 at 19:15), while the Sharks host the Free State Cheetahs in Durban (Saturday, August 10 at 15:00).
15 Devon Williams, 14 Morne Joubert, 13 Ryan Nell (captain), 12 Henko Marais, 11 Etienne Taljaard, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Ashlon Davids, 8 Jeandre Rudolph, 7 Willie Engelbrecht, 6 Francois Kleinhans, 5 Stefan Willemse, 4 Le Roux Roets, 3 Marne Coetzee, 2 Marko Janse van Rensburg, 1 Andrew Beerwinkel
Substitutes: 16 Simon Westraadt, 17 De-Jay Terblanche, 18 Hilton Lobberts, 19 Phumzile Maqondwana, 20 Ginter Smuts, 21 Kobus Marais, 22 Alwayno Visagie, 23 Morgan Naude