Durban - The Sharks produced arguably their best performance of the season as they thumped the Highlanders in a Super Rugby encounter at Kings Park on Saturday.
The hosts won 38-12, after leading 17-7 at half-time.
The Sharks ran in five tries to the Highlanders' two which was enough for the Durbanites to claim a bonus-point victory.
With the victory, the Sharks also ended the Highlanders' proud recent record in South Africa, which had seen the Dunedin-based outfit win their last five regular season games on the bounce in the country.
No one predicted this scoreline but that is what you get from the mercurial Sharks, brilliant the one week and abject the next.
The Sharks made a dream start, dotting down after just 38 seconds when Ruan Botha brilliantly snatched Cameron Wright's box-kick out of the air and fed Akker van der Merwe on his inside with a one-handed pass as the hooker sprinted away under the posts to grab his second try of the season.
The home side had their second try only six minutes later when prop Tendai Mtawarira made the half-break, off-loading to flyhalf Robert du Preez who found Makazole Mapimpi on the overlap, the winger bouncing off Highlanders flyhalf Lima Sopoaga to finish clinically in the left-hand corner. The Sharks pivot added the extras for a 14-0 lead.
The Highlanders responded in the 27th minute after they had worked themselves close to the tryline with a well-worked driving maul before flank Dillon Hunt peeled off the back and crashed over to cut the deficit in half.
Soon afterwards, Sharks pivot Robert du Preez extended the lead to 10 with a three-pointer after Mtawarira had out-muscled his opposite number at the scrum to win the penalty and ensure the home side took a 17-7 lead in to the interval.
The Sharks started the second half as they had begun the first, taking the game to the Highlanders with fast-paced high-intensity rugby and were rewarded with their third try in the 43rd minute.
A long ball from Du Preez was tapped back inside for the onrushing Lukhanyo Am to cut through the Highlanders defence like a hot knife through butter before playing the final pass on his inside for No 8 Daniel du Preez who showed good support play to dot down for his first try of the season in the 43rd minute. His brother Robert du Preez slotted the conversion for a 24-7 lead.
With twenty minutes remaining, the Sharks scored a scintillating try with Sbu Nkosi profiting from a sublime grubber kick through by Robert du Preez to dive on to the ball just before the dead-ball line for the bonus-point score.
It was going to be hard to emulate their two previous tires, but the Sharks managed to do so with a brilliant fifth. Fullback Curwin Bosch collected a high kick and stepped his way brilliantly past a host of Highlanders defenders throwing a no-look pass which was excellently snaffled by Robert du Preez who capped an impressive individual performance with a try. Du Preez's conversion made it 38-7 with just over 10 minutes to go.
The Highlanders scored a consolation try six minutes from time when Ben Smith scythed through the Sharks defence and played a brilliant long pass to set up Teihorangi Walden for the easy run-in to the line.
But the Sharks would ensure their bonus point would not be snatched away from them with no further scores as they closed out the game.
The win enabled the Sharks to move past the Stormers and Bulls into third position in the SA Conference.
In next weekend's action, the Sharks travel to Pretoria to duel the Bulls (Saturday, May 12 - 17:15), while the Highlanders host the Lions in Dunedin (Saturday, May 12 - 09:35 SA time).
Tries: Akker van der Merwe, Makazole Mapimpi, Daniel du Preez, Sbu Nkosi, Robert du Preez
Conversions: Du Preez (5)
Penalty: Du Preez
Tries: Dillon Hunt, Teihorangi Walden
Conversion: Lima Sopoaga
15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Cameron Wright, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Philip van der Walt, 5 Ruan Botha (captain), 4 Tyler Paul, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Ross Geldenhuys, 19 Stephan Lewies, 20 Jacques Vermeulen, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Marius Louw, 23 Lwazi Mvovo
15 Ben Smith (co-captain), 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Teihorangi Walden, 11 Patelesio Tomkinson, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Aki Seiuli
Substitutes: 16 Ash Dixon (co-captain), 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Kalolo Tuiloma, 19 Jackson Hemopo, 20 Elliot Dixon, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Josh Ioane, 23 Matt Faddes