An inexperienced Sharks side showed good composure to withstand a late Griquas fightback and come away victors after going down to 14 men.
The infamous Durban humidity made for a difficult contest between the Sharks and Griquas, with both sides succumbing to plenty of handling errors. The home side, relying on a largely inexperienced lineup captained by Marius Louw, showed enough fortitude to come away with a hard-fought 24-23 victory.
The opening 20 minutes was a cagey affair with neither side finding their rhythm and many passes not finding their targets. Sharks flyhalf Jordan Chait eventually opening the scoring with a penalty.
It would be Chait again who would break the deadlock a few minutes later after his incisive run and deft pass put his halfback partner Cameron Wright in for the opening try. The conversion followed and stretched the Sharks to a 10-point lead.
In what became typical of the match, the Griquas fought back in the final 10 minutes of the opening stanza and piled the pressure on their hosts. Two penalties from the boot of Zander du Plessis narrowed the Sharks’ half-time lead to only four points.
The home side got off to a dream start in the second half when hooker Dan Jooste crashed over after barely a minute of play to once again hand the Sharks the ascendency. A further penalty by replacement Murray Koster further accentuating the Shark’s second-half dominance.
Just as it looked as though the men from Durban might tighten the screws, Samoan flank OJ Noa was shown a red card for a dangerous tackle – marking an unceremonious end to his Sharks debut. It did not take the visitors long to capitalise on the man advantage with Justin Forwood crashing over to reduce the lead back to four.
Sanele Nohamba and Du Plessis exchanged penalties in the final 20 minutes as Griquas looked to manoeuvre themselves into a position from where a try could win them the game. Nohamba’s 77th-minute penalty stretched the Sharks lead to eight and this proved to be too much to overcome.
A late try for Xamlashe and the ensuing conversion was enough to put some gloss on the scoresheet for Griquas. The visitors will, however, be kicking themselves that they did not come away with a victory and have for the second match in a row lost despite a fighting display.