The Sharks scored their fourth try in the last minute to claim a 37-23 win against the Lions at Kings Park on Saturday night, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
The hosts' third try had come in the 50th minute and at that stage it looked like they'd easily get a couple more. But the Lions hit back with two tries that reduced the deficit to seven, only to concede one with 15 seconds remaining.
With Pat Lambie a late withdrawal due to tick bite fever, Frans Steyn started at 10 and Heimar Williams at 12. Steyn assumed the goal-kicking responsibilities and was successful with all seven attempts, including three important long-range penalties in the first half.
The Sharks carried the ball well and exposed the defence of the Lions, who missed 14 tackles in the first 40 minutes (and another seven after the break).
It was a Lions' mistake that allowed the hosts to open the scoring. Warwick Tecklenburg lost possession just inside the Sharks half, and the ball went wide to Lwazi Mvovo, whose kick ahead was collected by Paul Jordaan.
Marnitz Boshoff slotted two penalties for the Lions but Steyn's three, from far out, kept his side in front.
The Sharks then struck a big blow two minutes before the break, when Cobus Reinach burst away from a lineout and stepped Chrysander Botha to score a converted try that made it 23-9.
With half an hour to go, Elton Jantjies' chip kick near halfway was charged down. Marcell Coetzee offloaded well in the tackle and Odwa Ndungane dotted down in the right-hand corner.
The Lions came close to scoring at the end of the third quarter, when a kick ahead saw Botha and Steyn reaching for the ball over the line. After several replays, the TMO ruled that Botha had knocked on before Steyn had grounded the ball.
However, the visitors continued to attack and were rewarded when Faf de Klerk darted around a ruck to score. The Sharks were also reduced to 14 men as Ryan Kankowski was yellow carded for a professional foul in the build-up.
The Lions scored again three minutes later, when they mauled into the 22 before sending it wide to Boshoff, whose grubber was chased down by Deon van Rensburg.
Replacement Lions prop Corné Fourie was sent to the bin with six minutes to go, but the Sharks turned down the three points and kicked for the corner. They didn't get over on that occasion but they did with 15 seconds to go when Coetzee was driven over for the bonus-point try.
Sharks – Tries: Paul Jordaan, Cobus Reinach, Odwa Ndungane, Marcell Coetzee. Conversions: Frans Steyn (4). Penalties: Steyn (3).
Lions – Tries: Faf de Klerk, Deon van Rensburg. Conversions: Marnitz Boshoff (2). Penalties: Boshoff (3).
Sharks – 15 SP Marais, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Heimar Williams, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Frans Steyn, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (c), 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Stephan Lewies, 20 Jean Deysel, 21 Charl McLeod, 22 Fred Zeilinga, 23 S'bura Sithole.
Lions – 15 Marnitz Boshoff, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Deon van Rensburg, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 Chrysander Botha, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Franco Mostert, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Subs: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Corné Fourie, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 MB Lusaseni, 20 Willie Britz, 21 Ross Cronjé, 22 JW Jonker, 23 Coenie van Wyk.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images