The John Smit-captained Sharks produced a monumental defensive effort to beat the 2011 Crusaders 25-20 in Game 9 of the interactive Greatest Super Rugby Team tournament.
SA Rugby magazine readers dived into Game 9 of the 32-team knockout tournament, with the away side claiming the victory after 28% of voters backed them to win by between six and 10 points in Dunedin.
The result eliminates the 2011 Crusaders from the tournament, while the 2007 Sharks advance to the round of 16, where they will face the winner of Game 10.
While the star-studded Crusaders, featuring the attacking triple threat of Dan Carter, Sonny Bill Williams and Sean Maitland, dominated territory and possession, they were met by a near-immovable object in the Sharks’ defence, which held firm in the face of an offensive onslaught.
However, in a dramatic encounter that equalled the tension of their 2007 meeting, it was the Sharks who took their chances when it mattered and came away with the victory.
The Crusaders were quickest out of the blocks, applying plenty of early pressure and opening up a 6-0 lead thanks to Carter’s first two penalties.
However, the Sharks got themselves on the board when star wing JP Pietersen went over for the first of his two tries in the match, with fullback Percy Montgomery’s conversion putting the Sharks 7-6 ahead.
That’s how it would stay until the half-time break, but the Crusaders again came out firing in the second half, as Richie McCaw scored from a cleverly worked lineout move. Pietersen would then score his second try of the match, before Sean Maitland gave the home side the lead again.
Adi Jacobs replaced Waylon Murray early in the second half and had a good impact, organising those around him, while finishing off a Sharks move that started with an incredible decision to take a quick-tap penalty inside their own 22-metre area. Jacques Bothes then scored from a driving maul, giving the Sharks something to hold on to in the closing stages of the match.
From it was defence, defence and more defence for the visitors, with Bismarck du Plessis, AJ Venter and even flyhalf Butch James racking up the tackle count, while Du Plessis and Botes made a nuisance of themselves at the breakdown.
In the end, the home side did enough to see out the match and claim another famous victory, leaving a demoralised Crusaders team sprawled over the pitch.
2007 Sharks – Tries: JP Pietersen (2), Adi Jacobs, Jacques Botes. Conversion: Percy Montgomery. Penalty: Frans Steyn.
2011 Crusaders – Tries: Richie McCaw, Sean Maitland. Conversions: Dan Carter (2). Penalties: Carter (2).