The Sharks overturned a four-point halftime deficit to record a 31-25 (halftime 16-20) victory over the MTN Golden Lions in their Absa Currie Cup Premier Division match at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on Friday to go back to the top of the log.
Both sides scored three tries apiece, but it was the boot of Sharks flyhalf Fred Zeilinga that made the difference with the pivot slotting two conversions, two penalties and two drop-goals, to go along with his opening try for a personal tally of 21 points.
The Sharks went onto the front foot from the word go and Zeilinga slotted his first drop-goal after just three minutes. But Jantjies levelled matters shorlty after the restart when Andries Coetzee was brought down just short of the line and the visitors were caught offsides.
The Sharks dominated the first 20 minutes to such an extent that they had 77% possession, with the Lions making three times as many tackles as their opponents.
The only area of the field that the Lions were dominating were the scrums, but that did not stop the Sharks from scoring the first try, two minutes after Zeilinga had slotted his second drop-goal after 12 minutes.
The Sharks flyhalf broke through the Lions defense with a wonderful dummy and sidestep to score under the poles. Zeilinga converted himself to give the visitors a 13-3 lead after 15 minutes, as well as adding his first penalty five minutes later to extend the lead to 13 points.
The halfway mark in the first half signalled a change in the Lions as they started to string some passes together and keep ball in hand.
Derick Minnie, who had been held up over the line earlier in the half, went over for the hosts' first try after the Lions' left wing, Anthony Volmink, offloaded brilliantly to the flanker down the left wing. Jantjies converted to narrow the gap to six points.
Jantjies slotted another penalty after 34 minutes to bring the home side within three points before applying pressure on the Sharks line.
The Lions were awarded another penalty when the Sharks were caught with their hands in the ruck. But instead of going for poles to level the scores, the hosts kicked for touch.
The Lions mauled the ball upfield before moving the ball to the right. Volmink, who had come in off the left wing, took the ball in the middle of the field and drew a defender before offloading to Warren Whitely on his inside.
The big No 8 went in under the poles to give Jantjies an easy conversion which the Lions' pivot made no mistake with. The Lions rounded off a frenetic first half to go into the change rooms with a slender four-point cushion.
Five minutes after the resumption of play, Zeilinga slotted a long-range penalty to bring the visitors to within one point. But a brilliant run from the Sharks' scrumhalf, Charl McLeod, who exploited some space after taking a quick-tap penalty, found his fullback on the inside and SP Marais sailed over for the visitors' second try to regain the lead.
The home side regained the lead through Jaco Kriel who powered his way over the line after handing off two Sharks' defenders with just 15 minutes left to play.
But the Lions lost concentration and allowed a big gap to develop in the middle of the park, which replacement scrumhalf Cobus Reinach exploited to its fullest, bursting from the back of a maul, side-stepping one defender and beating another to go over under the posts.
Zeilinga converted the try which meant the home side would need a converted try to win the match. The Lions camped themselves inside the Sharks 22-metre area for the final 10 minutes of the match but could not find a way through the defence.
With four minutes left on the clock, the hosts worked their way over the tryline, but referee Jason Japhta ruled that the ball had been held up over the line.
With the Lions players pleading for him to go up stairs, Japhta consulted with his touch judge and then went to the TMO. Japhta remained with his initial decision and awarded a scrum to the hosts.
But try as they might, the Lions were not able to find a way through a resolute Sharks defence. They did manage though to pick up one log point for losing by less than seven points.
Golden Lions - Tries: Derick Minnie, Warren Whitely, Jaco Kriel; Conversions: Elton Jantjies (2); Penalties: Jantijies (2) .
Sharks - Tries: Fred Zeilinga, SP Marais, Cobus Reinach; Conversions: Zeilinga (2); Penalties: Zeilinga (2); Drop-goals: Zeilinga (2) .