The Sharks were made to toil in the Durban rain to claim a vital bonus-point victory over a second-string Leinster side at Kings Park on Saturday night.
Phepsi Buthelezi scored the decisive try for the Sharks in the second half to give the home side a hard-fought 28-23 victory after they trailed 14-17 at the break.
The result moved the Sharks above Glasgow Warriors into fourth place on the Vodacom United Rugby Championship log, keeping up their hopes of both making it into the playoffs and qualifying for the European Champions Cup. The Sharks also trail the Stormers by one point in the race to top the South African Shield, which would guarantee qualification into Europe.
However, it was far from straightforward against log-leaders Leinster, who fielded a couple of debutants as they were without the likes of Ireland internationals Johnny Sexton and James Lowe.
The Sharks dominated territory and possession for much of the contest, but were let down by some shoddy cleaning at the breakdown, a number of handling errors and some poor discipline. Thankfully for the hosts, their scrum and maul fired on all cylinders, allowing them to put Leinster under a mountain of pressure and lose a couple of players to yellow cards in the second half.
Aphelele Fassi did have a solid performance, which included an important try assist just before half time when he sliced through the Leinster defence from a poor clearance kick and put Jaden Hendrikse over.
It took until the 49th minute for the Sharks to take the lead for the first time when hooker Bongi Mbonambi scored from a driving maul. However, to their immense credit, Leinster continued fighting and put themselves back on top through centre Ciarán Frawley’s third successful penalty of the game.
Even when Buthelezi forced his way over from a five-metre scrum, the Sharks still had to scrap to win the game as Leinster hit back in the final 10 minutes and spent the closing stages of the match camped on the Sharks tryline.
In the end, the Sharks were able to hold tighthead prop Michael Ala’alatoa up over the tryline to end to the contest and seal what could be a very important result for their season.
Photo: Darren Stewart/Gallo Images