Sharks overcome tough Griquas
The Sharks overturned a halftime deficit and broke their Kimberley hoodoo by pipping the GWK Griquas 25-24 (halftime 11-17) in their Absa Currie Cup Premier Division match at a warm and sunny GWK Park on Saturday.
Despite a shambolic line-out and a scrum that struggled in the second half, the Sharks prevailed thanks to a 75th-minute try from Wiehan Herbst which gave them the victory, despite trailing for most of the game.
The home side were looking to make it a double over the men from the East Coast and were looking certain to cross the line in front until the burly tighthead prop burst from the back of a maul and drove his way over for the Sharks' second try.
The Sharks began the match the brighter of the two sides and earned just reward when Griquas were penalised for being off their feet at a ruck.
Butch James knocked over the penalty to give the visitors a 3-0 lead after just three minutes.
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The first 10 minutes belonged to the Sharks but once the hosts settled, they started running strongly with Howard Mnisi and Marnus Schoeman proving to be a handful.
Mnisi was giving his opposite centres the runaround while Schoeman ran strongly with ball in hand.
The home side almost scored the opening try when a lovely move was snuffed out into touch just short of the line.
Mnisi showed quick hands to feed Nico Scheepers on the wing, but the winger fed the ball inside to the fullback, PJ Vermeulen, who was bundled out.
The fullback suffered an agonising injury when his leg got trapped and he went over his ankle and had to be stretchered off the field. He was replaced by Gouws Prinsloo.
The Sharks' lineout was shambolic and Griquas were awarded a scrum just five metres from the tryline.
Referee Jaco Peyper awarded the hosts a penalty as the Sharks were deemed to be scrumming illegally. Francois Brummer slotted his attempt to level matters after 15 minutes.
The first 30 minutes were dominated by penalties as Brummer slotted four attempts against the two from James.
But on the half-hour mark, the Sharks moved the ball up the field and Charl McLeod swung the ball right from the base of the ruck to James, who flung a long pass to Keegan Daniel who then offloaded with a back-handed flick to Sizo Maseko who stepped inside the last defender to score the Sharks' first try.
James missed the conversion to leave the visitors just one point adrift.
Schoeman was finally rewarded for his strong running and high work-rate when he went over for a try four minutes before the break.
The home side were awarded a penalty which they kicked to touch just five metres out. Griquas then mauled from the lineout and Schoeman broke away and swivelled over the line to score.
Brummer missed the conversion as the teams went into the changeroom at 17-11 to the hosts.
The visitors began the second half as they did the first.
The Sharks were awarded two penalties within the first five minutes after the restart.
Jean Deysel decided to take a quick tap with the first one but was bundled into touch. The second one, from 12 metres out, was sent through the posts by James to narrow the gap to three points.
As was the case against Western Province last week, the Sharks struggled in the scrums and Griquas took full advantage of this in the 48th minute.
With the Sharks having a defensive scrum just five metres from their own tryline, the home side pushed the Sharks off the ball, with Burger Schoeman picking up from the side of the scrum, and the flanker burst over the line for his side's second try. Brummer converted to extend the lead to 10 points.
Fred Zeilinga then replaced James in the pivot position and the youngster thought that today was not going to be his day with the boot, as he missed four attempts out of six.
Zeilinger missed his first attempt at poles but made amends just three minutes later to move the Sharks to within seven points with 19 minutes remaining.
Just two minutes later, Zeilinga hooked his third attempt to the left of the uprights, but got yet another chance after 65 minutes, and made it count, as the Sharks trailed by four points with 15 minutes left on the clock.
With five minutes remaining, and Zeilinga's boot missing more than it was succeeding, Ryno Barnes was shown a yellow card by Peyper.
The Griquas hooker was adjudged to have been slowing the ball down, while being off his feet. The Sharks, a man to the good, kicked to touch. Herbst then burst from the back of the maul to force his way over for the decisive score.
Griquas have now lost five consecutive matches after their opening-day victory over the Sharks in Durban and remain bottom of the Absa Currie Cup log on nine points.
The Sharks on the other hand moved top of the log with 19 points, three points ahead of the Toyota Free State Cheetahs and DHL Western Province, who have a game in hand.
Griquas - Tries: Marnus Schoeman, Burger Schoeman. Conversion: Francois Brummer. Penalties: Brummer (4).
Sharks - Tries: Sizo Maseko, Wiehan Herbst. Penalties: Butch James (3), Fred Zeilinga (2).