The Sharks beat the Crusaders 30-25 in Christchurch despite playing for 54 minutes with 14 men and 10 with 13. SIMON BORCHARDT reports.
The Sharks' hopes of winning in Christchurch for the first time looked to have evaporated when, with the scores level at 7-7 after 16 minutes, Jean Deysel was red-carded for stamping on the face of Jordan Taufua. It was a moment of madness from the flanker, who took exception to being held without the ball after the Sharks had turned over possession from a Crusaders' driving maul.
But the visitors did incredibly well to go into the break trailing just 13-10 – having spent only 22 seconds in the opposition 22 – and went on to claim a famous victory, despite being reduced to 13 men in the second half, when Willem Alberts was yellow-carded for playing the man without the ball, and substituting some of their senior players.
This match will live long in the memory.
The Sharks have struggled to score tries in recent weeks, but they got one here in the ninth minute, when they won a lineout on the Crusaders' 10m line. Frans Steyn received the ball at second receiver and burst through a hole created by the decoy runners on his inside, taking play into the 22 before cutting back inside and throwing a one-handed pass to S'bura Sithole, who scored his first Super Rugby try. Steyn slotted the conversion.
Colin Slade then missed his first penalty shot at goal, before Lwazi Mvovo's inability to find touch gave the ball back to the hosts. Cobus Reinach was unable to collect Willi Heinz's kick, with Sam Whitelock picking up the loose ball and finding Slade, who fended off Steyn to score a converted try.
Then came Deysel's sending-off, and Slade kicked the resultant penalty to put his side in front for the first time.
The hosts began to dominate possession and the Sharks looked rattled, with Paul Jordaan knocking on behind his tryline and SP Marais failing to take care of a kick that bounced awkwardly in the in-goal area. Neither mistake cost them a try, but a strong Saders scrum soon after produced a penalty that Slade converted.
Slade, though, missed his next shot at goal and Steyn's penalty just before half-time reduced the deficit to three.
The Sharks then hit the front two minutes after the break, when Reinach put pressure on Heinz at a lineout on the Sharks 10m. The ball came off Reinach's knee and he kicked it ahead, getting boot to ball again 5m out and diving on it to score a converted try.
Slade and Steyn exchanged penalties to make it 20-16, with another Steyn strike, from long-range, falling just short. Slade then gave his side the lead with two penalties, the second coming after Alberts' sin-binning, only for Tim Swiel to put the Sharks back in front, 23-22, with 12 minutes to go. Slade's next attempt went wide but he slotted his sixth penalty as Alberts returned to the field.
However, the visitors finished strongly, with a forward drive resulting in a 75th-minute try to Kyle Cooper, with Swiel cooly slotting the conversion.
The Saders pushed hard for a match-levelling try, but the visitors' defence held firm and they celebrated wildly at the final whistle.
Crusaders – Try: Colin Slade. Conversion: Slade. Penalties: Slade (6).
Sharks – Tries: S'bura Sithole, Cobus Reinach, Kyle Cooper. Conversions: Frans Steyn (2), Tim Swiel. Penalties: Steyn (2), Swiel.
Crusaders – 15 Tom Taylor, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Ryan Crotty (c), 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Richie McCaw, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Subs: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Tim Perry, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Jimmy Tupou, 20 George Whitelock, 21 Andy Ellis, 22 Tyler Bleyendaal, 23 Nafi Tuitavake.
Sharks – 15 SP Marais, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 S'bura Sithole, 12 Paul Jordaan, 11 Lwazi Mvovo,10 Frans Steyn, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Willem Alberts, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Tera Mtembu, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, (c) 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Ryan Kankowski, 20 Keegan Daniel, 21 Charl McLeod, 22 Tim Swiel, 23 Heimar Williams.
LEATHERMAN SA PLAYER OF THE MATCH
Every Sharks player, except Jean Deysel, deserves this award, but we've got to pick one. After a poor performance against the Brumbies last week, Frans Steyn returned to top form with an excellent goal-kicking performance and a strong break that resulted in S'bura Sithole's try.
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Photo: Marty Melville/AFP Photo