Durban - The Sharks beat the Highlanders 23-15 in Durban on Saturday to record their first win in three games and move up to second place in the Super 14 tournament.
The home side, coming off the back of two defeats and a bye, looked rusty against New Zealanders fighting to stay in the reckoning.
With two rounds remaining, the Sharks have 35 points, while the Highlanders remained 10th with 23 points.
The Sharks opened the scoring in a scrappy first half with a 10th minute penalty by scrumhalf Rory Kockott.
The Highlanders replied almost immediately with a try by replacement hooker Jason Rutledge, converted by flyhalf Matthew Berquist, to make it 7-3.
The home side regained the lead in the 17th minute, when lock Steven Sykes barged over after a good break in midfield by wing JP Pietersen, and went 17-7 ahead 10 minutes later when a Berquist knock-on behind his own goal-line was pounced on by flank Jacques Botes.
Berquist made partial amends when he slotted a 35th minute penalty that narrowed the deficit to a single converted try before scrumhalf Jimmy Cowan dived over on the stroke of half-time.
The second half was characterised by numerous handling errors and poor option taking, with both sides unable to string together enough phases to threaten the line.
Kockott added two penalties to extend the lead to eight points and make the game safe, but was then red-carded in the closing minutes for a punch on Highlanders flank Adam Thomson.
The Sharks were further reduced to 13 men in injury time when replacement flanker Keegan Daniel was sin-binned for a trip, but the visitors were unable to convert the last-second penalty that would have given them a bonus point.
Tries: Steven Sykes, Jacques Botes; Conversions: Rory Kockott (2); Penalties: Kockott (3)
Tries: Jason Rutledge, Jimmy Cowan; Conversion: Matthew Berquist; Penalty: Berquist
Yellow cards: Daniel Bowden (Highlanders), Keegan Daniel (Sharks)
Red card: Kockott (Sharks)
Referee: Phillip Bosch (RSA)