The Sharks held on to secure a crucial 33-25 win over the Jaguares in Buenos Aires on Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
In the light of the Sharks’ dour 9-9 draw against the Rebels last weekend, this was a massive result for the Durban-based franchise, and one that spoke volumes for the character of the side.
Coming into this clash, the Lions had extended their lead at the top of the Africa 2 conference to 13 points, but the Sharks appeared to be unburdened as they produced a composed and clinical performance at a hostile venue.
The Sharks made the perfect start to proceedings when stand-in captain Philip van der Walt scored early on, but from thereon it would be a half where momentum ebbed one way and then the next.
Nicolás Sánchez and Curwin Bosch traded two penalties each as matters remained relatively even during the opening stanza, but there then seemed to be an opening for the hosts when Sharks scrumhalf Michael Claassens was sent to the sin bin for a cynical offence.
Joaquín Tuculet scored soon after as the Jaguares made the most of their one-man advantage, while Matias Orlando went over under the posts in the 34th minute to suddenly propel the Argentine side into a 20-13 lead.
It appeared as if it would be a handy advantage that they’d take into the break, but the Sharks weren’t done just yet. Young fullback Rhyno Smith produced a beautiful break that ultimately ended in a try for Etienne Oosthuizen.
That left the scores deadlocked at 20-20 at the break, but the Sharks would have been the far happier of the two sides, considering they had played 10 minutes with 14 men.
The visitors' confidence would have only grown when Coenie Oosthuizen and Thomas du Toit combined for the latter to dive over next to the posts in the 53rd minute, and from there it was really the Sharks’ game to close out.
That was particularly the case when Bosch opened up a 10-point buffer with his third penalty just after the hour mark, but the Jaguares hit back almost straight from the restart as Bautista Ezcurra was put away to score in the corner.
It left the Sharks hanging on to a five-point lead heading into the final 10 minutes, but they maintained their composure at the death, with Bosch slotting an 81st-minute penalty to secure an impressive win.
Jaguares – Tries: Joaquín Tuculet, Matias Orlando, Bautista Ezcurra. Conversions: Nicolás Sánchez (2). Penalties: Sánchez (2).
Sharks – Tries: Philip van der Walt, Etienne Oosthuizen, Thomas du Toit. Conversions: Curwin Bosch (3). Penalties: Bosch (4).
Jaguares – 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Ramiro Moyano, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo De La Fuente, 11 Bautista Ezcurra, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Felipe Ezcurra, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Rodrigo Baez, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Marcos Kremer, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustin Creevy (c), 1 Lucas Noguera Paz.
Subs: 16 Roberto Tejerizo, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Enrique Pieretto Heilan, 19 Ignacio Larrague, 20 Benjamin Macome, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Juan Martin Hernandez, 23 Matias Moroni.
Sharks – 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Jeremy Ward, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Philip van der Walt (c), 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Ruan Botha, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Subs: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Etienne Oosthuizen, 20 Tera Mtembu, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 23 Johan Deysel.
Photo: Gabriel Rossi/Getty Images