Left wing S'bura Sithole scored two tries as the Sharks XV clinched a home quarterfinal after beating the Pampas XV 30-24 (halftime 19-3) in their Vodacom Cup South Section match at the AK Markotter Stadium in Stellenbosch on Saturday.
Sithole scored a try in each half as the Sharks XV registered a bonus-point victory over the defending champions to finish second to Western Province on the south section log.
Outplayed in the first half, the Pampas XV bounced back to seal a bonus point and a quarterfinal spot thanks to a last-gasp drop goal by replacement flyhalf Benjamin Madero.
The Sharks XV looked in control from the outset. They kept matters tight which frustrated the free-running Argentinians. The Sharks also restricted any drives around the fringes and the pressure resulting from that forced the Pampas XV into numerous handling errors.
Sharks XV centre Paul Jordaan got the ball rolling for the visitors when he drifted out and cut back in to beat two defenders and score the opening try in the eight minute.
Scrumhalf Cobus Reinach was in the action four minutes later as he scored a breakaway interception try from inside his own half. The competition's leading points-scorer fullback Gouws Prinsloo had no trouble with the conversion.
The sturdily-built Sithole got his name on the scoresheet when he took the final pass and rolled over the tryline to dot down for the third score after some good driving work by hooker Kyle Cooper and flank Jean Deysel. Prinsloo converted again to make the score 19-0.
The Pampas XV opened their account on the stroke of halftime when flyhalf Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias slotted a penalty.
They clawed their way closer straight after the restart when Iglesias succeeded with a smartly-taken drop goal.
But Prinsloo restored the Sharks XV's 13-point lead with a penalty after 52 minutes before Sithole got in for his second try after collecting a clever cross-kick from Jordaan to score midway out.
The Pampas then enjoyed their best period of the match and put the Sharks XV under pressure by running from flatter positions.
They were rewarded for their efforts with a try by right wing Facundo Barrea, who danced around Sithole on his way to the score.
That seemed to spark the homeside even more and an intercept try by left wing Manuel Montero in the 71st minute and a conversion and penalty by Madero saw them pull within six points of the Sharks XV.
But Prinsloo secured the result with a penalty in the 79th minute before Madero's heroic dropkick ensured that the Argentine side remains in the competition.
Pampas XV – Tries: Facundo Barrea, Manuel Madero; Conversions: Benjamin Madero; Penalties: Santiago Gonzales Iglesias, Benjamin Madero; Drop Goals: Santiago Gonzales Iglesias, Benjamin Madero
Sharks XV – Tries: Paul Jordaan, Cobus Reinach, Sibusiso Sithole (2); Conversions: Gouws Prinsloo (2); Penalties: Prinsloo (2).