Zeilinga boots Sharks into semis

Fred Zeilinga kicked 21 points as the Sharks secured a semi-final place with a 26-23 win over the Golden Lions in Durban on Friday, writes BRENTON CHELIN.

It wasn't the free-flowing that we were expecting. Instead, what we got was a lacklustre encounter that meandered until a frantic last few minutes. Neither team was able to create any sort of momentum, as penalties and set-piece inconsistency made for a stop-start encounter. In fairness, they weren't helped by referee Lesego Legoete's insistence on micro-managing every aspect of the game, resulting in a ridiculously high penalty count.

In the end it was a 73rd-minute Zeilinga penalty that separated the two sides. The win moves the Sharks onto 29 points, two points shy of the Lions, who managed to grab a losing bonus point. They might still be able to secure a home play-off match but, with a trip to Cape Town next weekend, that seems unlikely.

Marnitz Boshoff got things started in the 14th minute with a penalty after S'bura Sithole was pinged for offside. The Sharks hit back with a try through André Esterhuizen, as he steamrolled Courtnall Skosan to go over following some good continuity from the hosts.

The Lions were gifted a lifeline after a moment of poor discipline by Esterhuizen saw yellow for his troubles. With the Sharks on the attack, he chose to fend off the attentions of Ruan Combrinck with his elbow and was rightfully punished by the referee.

Combrinck made the Sharks pay, intercepting a speculative Zeilinga pass before racing away to score a try, before Boshoff added another penalty to give the Lions a 13-11 half-time lead.

Zeilinga, an early replacement for the injured Paul Jordaan, then kicked three penalties at the start of the second half to give the Sharks a buffer. Another Boshoff penalty and a try from Stokkies Hanekom brought the sides level, but it would be Legoete that would have the final say.

Derick Minnie saw yellow shortly after entering the fray and while Zeilinga missed the resulting penalty, he slotted another a couple minutes later as the Sharks snuck across the line.

Jacques Botes, playing in his 270th first-class match and last at Kings Park, was awarded Man of the Match to cap off a solid night for the Sharks.

Sharks – Try: André Esterhuizen. Penalties: Fred Zeilinga (7).
Golden Lions – Tries: Ruan Combrinck, Stokkies Hanekom. Conversions: Marnitz Boshoff (2). Penalties: Marnitz Boshoff (3).

Sharks – 15 SP Marais, 14 S'bura Sithole, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Lionel Cronjé, 9 Cameron Wright, 8 Tera Mtembu (c), 7 Etienne Oosthuizen, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Marco Wentzel, 4 Stephan Lewies, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Subs: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Matt Stevens, 19 JC Astle, 20 Khaya Majola, 21 Conrad Hoffmann, 22 Fred Zeilinga.

Golden Lions – 15 Marnitz Boshoff, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe (c), 12 Stokkies Hanekom, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Ross Cronjé, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Martin Muller, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Subs: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Julian Redelinghuys, 18 Jacques van Rooyen, 19 Derick Minnie, 20 Kwagga Smith, 21 Mark Richards, 22 Howard Mnisi.

Photo: Sabelo Mngoma/BackpagePix