Cape Town - The Sharks secured a second successive Currie Cup final spot with a dramatic 33-24 win over the Golden Lions at Kings Park, having led 18-3 at half-time.
As it happened: Sharks v Golden Lions
The hosts were utterly dominant in the first half, controlling from first whistle to last. They controlled possession and often disrupted the Lions' set pieces.
A late comeback from the visitors nearly knocked the wind out of their sails, but a combination of grit and luck saw the Durban-based side through.
Robert du Preez snr's side wasted no time getting on the front foot, with Pieter Jansen gifting them an attacking scrum with a crooked throw from a lineout.
The powerful Sharks forwards did their job before Lwazi Mvovo sucked several defenders in and offloaded to Dan du Preez for a simple finish in only the third minute of the game. The number eight's brother, Robert jnr, added the conversion.
In the 12th minute, the flyhalf was handed another shot at goal due to a penalty for offside against Warren Whiteley. From under the sticks, he once again made no mistake.
Then, nine minutes later, the hosts scored a superb team try. Sibusiso Nkosi initiated the move, taking on three defenders before offloading to Marius Louw. The build-up continued and the wing was the man to finish off in the right-hand corner after receiving the final pass from Jacques Vermeulen.
The Sharks suffered a blow in the 27th minute when Lwazi Mvovo was stretchered off due to concussion, with Aphelele Fassi replacing him. However, it did little to derail their momentum.
Shortly afterwards, the dominant home forward pack won a penalty off the Lions' put-in at the scrum. The Sharks opted to go for posts, with Rob du Preez slotting over from under the sticks as the clock struck 32 minutes.
The Lions put themselves on the board at last in the 35th minute after winning a penalty for a side-entry, with Elton Jantjies slotting over the three points.
The first half ended with Curwin Bosch missing a long-range penalty kick, but he got the second 40 minutes off to a great start. After the Lions allowed his kick-off to bounce, Vermeulen collected and once again gave the ball to Nkosi, who finished on the right.
The Lions scored their first try of the game in the 56th minute, with Lionel Mapoe the catalyst. The centre burst through a gap in the Sharks defence before stepping inside another opponent and offloading to Nic Groom for a simple finish. Jantjies added the extras and the game was back on.
Momentum was with the visitors, and the Sharks will have had hearts in mouths when Aphiwe Dyantyi intercepted a pass inside his own 22 and raced away. Astonishingly, Fassi caught him and won possession back only for Hyron Andrews to throw the ball straight into Skosan's arms. From there, nobody could catch the winger, and Jantjies converted his 63rd-minute try.
However, four minutes later, the Sharks extended the lead back beyond a converted try after winning a penalty for offside against Chergin Fillies, which was popped over the sticks by Rob du Preez.
A stroke of genius from Jantjies put the Lions right back on the hosts' heels in the 70th minute. His perfectly weighted cross-kick picked out Skosan on the right and the wing went in for his second try. The fly-half added the conversion to bring the Sharks' lead down to two points.
However, a controversial decision from Marius van der Westhuizen swung the game firmly back into the Sharks' hands. Whiteley was ruled to have knocked the ball forward in the lineout, and despite the Lions' protests, Dan du Preez then powered through two tackles to score from a pick-and-go. Once again, Rob du Preez extended the lead to nine.
There was to be no last twist in the game and the Sharks held on for what was ultimately a well-deserved home victory. They will face the winner of the late game between table-toppers Western Province and the Blue Bulls in the final.
Tries: Dan du Preez (2), Sbu Nkosi (2)
Conversions: Robert du Preez (2)
Penalties: Du Preez (3)
Tries: Nick Groom, Courtnall Skosan (2)
Conversions: Elton Jantjies (3)
15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Jeremy Ward, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder (captain), 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 Jacques Vermeulen, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Gideon Koegelenberg, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Juan Schoeman
Substitutes: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Luke Stringer, 20 Jean-Luc du Preez, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Leolin Zas, 23 Aphelele Fassi
15 Sylvian Mahuza, 14 Courtnall Skosan, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Pikkie de Villiers, 6 James Venter, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Rhyno Herbst, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Pieter Jansen, 1 Sti Sithole
Substitutes: 16 Tiaan van der Merwe, 17 Danie Mienie, 18 Chergin Fillies, 19 Vincent Tshituka, 20 Hacjivah Dayimani, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Shaun Reynolds, 23 Wandisile Simelane