A strong second-half display from the Cell C Sharks XV guided them to a 43-27 (half-time 15-20) victory over the Regent Boland Cavaliers in their Vodacom Cup clash in Ceres as they re-asserted themselves to the top of the South Section standings on Saturday.
The lesser-hailed Boland outfit, who started the match second from bottom with just one win to their credit, looked to be on course for one of the upsets of the season as they raced to an early 13-point lead.
However, the momentum of the match swung with veteran flanker Keegan Daniel's try shortly before half time, and the Sharks XV put on a second-half masterclass to secure a crucial bonus-point triumph that saw them regain their post at the summit of the table after the Toyota Free State XV had earlier knocked them off their perch with a 54-17 thrashing of the Border Bulldogs in the lunch-time kick-off.
For the Cavaliers, it was another spirited display that ultimately amounted to nothing, as they remain second from bottom having amassed just five points.
A seventh-minute penalty from fullback Eric Zana had earlier given them the perfect start, and it was to get even better as former Sevens hero Danwel Demas increased the home side's advantage with a well-worked try six minutes later.
Having made no mistake with the conversion, Zana then slotted home a 16th-minute penalty to send the Cavaliers into dream-land, as they enjoyed a surprise 13-point lead.
The Sharks XV had offered little in the way of attacking presence up until that point, and were in desperate need of a reply to get themselves back in the game. They had to wait just three minutes though, as fullback Jaco van Tonder dotted down to suggest to the hosts that the tide may have turned.
But despite flyhalf Tim Swiel's subsequent penalty in the 24th minute, a determined Boland side maintained their focus, and Arno Fortuin's 30th-minute try provided them with due reward as they led 20-8.
But the cock-a-hoop Cavaliers were caught on their heels just four minutes before the break, and the impressive Daniel crashed over to dampen the spirits of the home side, as they had a mere five-point lead to show for their superior first-half display.
And it was the Durban-based side who came out with the greater impetus after the restart, as they penned the Cavaliers into their own half. The pressure eventually told, as winger Sizo Maseko put the Sharks into the lead for the first time in the 54th minute with a beautifully-worked try, and substitute Tian Meyer crossed the whitewash shortly after the 60-minute mark to give the Sharks a nine-point advantage and an invaluable bonus point.
It was the visitors who now held all the cards, and they put the game well beyond the Cavaliers with tries for Swiel and a second for Daniel in the 78th minute.
The home crowd were given something to cheer about in the end, as Fortuin scored his second of the afternoon on the stroke of full time, but it wasn't enough to yield the bonus point they so richly deserved, and the impressive Sharks marched to the top of the log after a hard-fought win.
BOLAND CAVALIERS: Tries: Damas, Fortuin (2); Conversions: Zana (2), Rust; Penalties: Zana (2).
SHARKS XV: Tries: Van Tonder, Daniel (2), Maseko, Meyer, Swiel.; Conversions: Swiel (5); Penalties: Swiel.