The Sharks XV clinched top spot in the South Section of the Vodacom Cup thanks to a 46-31 (half-time 36-5) win over the ICBC Pampas XV at Kings Park in Durban on Friday.
The win meant that the Sharks XV will host a quarterfinal, although they will have to wait for the weekend’s programme of matches to finish before the opponent will be decided.
The Pampas XV were already assured of a quarterfinal pace before the Sharks XV match and, despite grabbing a bonus-point against the team from Durban, remained in third on the log.
The Sharks XV played the first half at a tremendous pace as they set out to banish any demons from the 27-23 loss the week before against the EP Kings and the hosts made a fine start as they grabbed their first try in the third minute after right wing Kotaro Matsushima went over after some wonderful interplay between the backs and forwards.
The Pampas XV were reduced to 14 men for 10 minutes when flank Thomas De La Vega was yellow-carded for a sixth minute tip tackle with Sharks XV flyhalf Fred Zeilinga slotting the resulting penalty.
Springbok loose forward Willem Alberts showed his power four minutes later when he barged his way over for a converted try after a series of forward rushes had carried the ball to within metres of the Pampas XV’s tryline.
Loosehead prop Robbie Harris added to the try count with a 22-minute effort before the visitors finally struck back with a try for fullback Ramiro Moyano who stepped inside his defender on his way to an unconverted score.
However, the home team’s high-tempo, ball in hand approach proved to be the Pampas XV’s undoing and the visitors conceded two tries in the last three minutes of the half.
Former Springbok Marius Joubert grabbed an intercept try before he showed a wonderful sleight of hand to flip a pass on to fullback Jaco van Tonder who went over in the left-hand corner for a converted score as the Sharks XV went to the break holding a commanding 36-5 lead.
The hosts scored again five minutes after the restart when Alberts was on hand to take a scoring pass from Zeilinga but the rest of the half belonged almost exclusively to the team from Argentina.
The visitors grabbed a try as the match entered the final quarter when eighthman Leonardo Senatore crashed over before outside centre Juan Pablo Estelles scored a wonderful individual try as he broke clear from 35 metres out.
Zeilinga finally stopped the bleeding with a 72nd minute penalty but the Pampas XV grabbed a bonus-point try, a just reward for the second-half performance, four minutes from time when lock Mariano Galarza crashed over under a pile of bodies.
Estelles went over in the final minute for his second try to end the scoring in what had been an entertaining fixture.
Sharks XV – Tries: Kotaro Matsushima, Willem Alberts (2), Robbie Harris, Marius Joubert, Jaco van Tonder; Conversions: Fred Zeilinga (5); Penalties: Zeilinga (2).
ICBC Pampas XV – Tries: Ramiro Moyano, Leonardo Senatore, Juan Pablo Estelles (2), Mariano Galarza; Conversions: Benjamín Madero (2), Santiago Gonzalez.