The Sharks overcame terrible weather and a questionable red card to secure a hard-fought 13-12 win (half-time 5-9) over the Vodacom Blue Bulls in their Currie Cup Premier Division match at Mr Price Kings Park in Durban on Friday.
Heavy rain in the build-up to the match meant that the Sharks re-jigged their starting line-up while the conditions, with rain continuing to fall throughout the contest, meant that tactical kicking was the order of the day, especially from the Bulls.
The Sharks held a 13-9 lead with 10 minutes to play but they were put under pressure when hooker Pieter Dixon was red carded in the 70th minute for a kick to the head of Bulls flank Arno Botha.
Dixon looked hard done by as he appeared to have lost his footing before accidently making contact with Botha but Bulls flyhalf Louis Fouche had no mercy as he kicked the resulting penalty to make it a one-point game.
Despite being a man down the Sharks defended manfully to carve out the win to move to the top of the Currie Cup standings while the Blue Bulls remain in fifth place only two points ahead of the bottom-of-the-table Cheetahs who have a game in hand.
Considering the conditions it was no surprise when the opening score came from a scruffy, 23-metre drop goal courtesy of Fouche in the third minute.
The conditions were making for a scrappy encounter with both teams guilty of knocking the ball on, on numerous occasions but the Sharks finally grabbed the first try of the match, in the 21st minute, when left wing Paul Jordaan ripped a ball clear from a maul to gallop 40 metres before sliding over for an unconverted score.
But the Bulls regained the lead eight minutes later thanks to a Fouche penalty before the pivot ensured that his team went to the break with a handy lead, considering the conditions, with his second successful penalty on the stroke of half-time.
The Sharks were their own worst enemy in the first half as they conceded five penalties to none but they made a wonderful start to the second half when scrumhalf Cobus Reinach and eighthman Keegan Daniel combined for a superb try.
Reinach broke from a lineout on the halfway line before popping a pass to Daniel who showed pace and strength to muscle his way over in the right-hand corner for an unconverted score.
Inside centre Meyer Bosman then extended the lead with a long-range penalty in the 54th minute as they Sharks started to take control of the match but their growing confidence was dented when Dixon was sent from the field.
However, coach John Plumtree will be pleased with the character shown by the men from Durban who avenged the 42-31 defeat they suffered against the Blue Bulls earlier in the season.
SHARKS – Tries: Paul Jordaan, Keegan Daniel; Penalty: Meyer Bosman.
VODACOM BLUE BULLS – Penalties: Louis Fouche (3); Drop goal: Fouche.