The Pumas withstood a second-half Sharks comeback to claim a 33-24 win in Nelspruit, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
This would have been considered a shock result not so long ago, but that was before the Pumas' progression and the Sharks' decline.
The hosts were full value for their win and, based on this performance, will be serious semi-final contenders in a competition shorn of its Springboks.
For the visitors, it was a case of different competition, same problem, as their defence again let them down. Their attack was a bit better, though, and they did well to fight back from being 27-7 down at the break.
The Pumas dominated the first half, opening the scoring in the 11th minute after a sustained attack that saw Frank Herne break through the defence and take play to the 22. While the hosts were later bundled into touch, they stole the resultant lineout, and quick recycling of possession saw Stefan Watermeyer dive over.
JC Roos kicked the conversion and then nailed a 60m penalty that the Pumas earned at scrum time to make it 10-0.
The flyhalf slotted another penalty, before the Sharks hit back with their first try, with Khaya Majola running strongly, bumping off a defender and then sending Lionel Cronjé away to score under the posts.
However, those seven points were soon cancelled out when Faf de Klerk put Marnus Schoeman into space next to a ruck on the Sharks 22. The TMO was happy with the pass and the Pumas led 20-7 after half an hour.
Schoeman scored again a few minutes later when the Pumas put a kickable penalty into touch and produced the perfect lineout driving maul. The flanker almost claimed a first-half hat-trick, but was unable to control the ball just before the line after kicking it ahead.
Whatever Gary Gold had to say during the break did the trick, as Heimar Williams crossed for the Sharks' second try shortly after the resumption.
Roos's third penalty gave the Pumas a 16-point lead, but that was cut to nine in the 63rd minute when Daniel du Preez crashed over from close range for a try on his Currie Cup debut. Joe Pietersen's penalty then brought the Sharks back to within striking range.
But the visitors conceded a penalty with two minutes to go, which allowed Roos to put the result beyond doubt.
Pumas – Tries: Stefan Watermeyer, Marnus Schoeman (2). Conversions: JC Roos (3). Penalties: Roos (4).
Sharks – Tries: Lionel Cronjé, Heimar Williams, Daniel du Preez. Conversions: Joe Pietersen (3). Penalty: Pietersen.
Pumas – 15 JW Bell, 14 Bernado Botha, 13 Jerome Pretorius, 12 Stefan Watermeyer (c), 11 Rosco Speckman, 10 JC Roos, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Lambert Groenewald, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Giant Mtyanda, 4 Rudi Mathee, 3 De-Jay Terblanché, 2 Frank Herne, 1 Khwezi Mona.
Subs: 16 Francois du Toit, 17 Corné Fourie, 18 Marius Coetzer, 19 Jason-Colin Fraser, 20 Reynier van Rooyen, 21 Justin van Staden, 22 Hoffmann Maritz.
Sharks – 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Sibusiso Sithole, 13 Wandile Mjekevu, 12 Heimar Williams, 11 André Esterhuizen, 10 Lionel Cronjé, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Khaya Majola, 5 Marco Wentzel (c), 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Monde Hadebe, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Subs: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 David McDuling, 19 Daniel du Preez, 20 Francois Kleinhans, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 SP Marais.
Photo: Dirk Kotze/Gallo Images