Sharks march into the semi-finals
July 20, 2014
The Sharks stole the win with two penalties in the last 10-minutes
© Getty Images
The Brumbies and the NSW Waratahs have a showdown next weekend in Sydney to see who plays in the Super Rugby title match. The Brumbies knocked out New Zealand's defending champion Chiefs 32-30 in Canberra on Saturday while in Durban, the Sharks beat New Zealand's Highlanders 31-27 to set up a semi-final against the seven-time champion Crusaders in Christchurch.
Frans Steyn kicked two late penalties to give the Sharks victory, the first on 74 minutes at Kings Park nudged the home team into a one-point lead and he scored again in the final minute.
Each team scored three tries in a seesaw struggle with the New Zealanders coming from 10 points behind to lead the South Africans 17-13 at half-time. Sharks snatched two tries within four second-half minutes to gain a five-point advantage only to fall behind again when Highlanders scored a converted try.
Sharks 31-27 Highlanders (video available in Australia only)
Flanker Marcell Coetzee, hooker and skipper Bismarck du Plessis and left-wing Tonderai Chavhanga scored tries for the Sharks. Fly-half Steyn succeeded with two of three conversion kicks and four of five penalty attempts in perfect goal-kicking conditions.
Centre Malakai Fekitoa, prop Kane Hames and centre Phil Burleigh crossed the try-line for the always adventurous Highlanders. Fly-half Lima Sopoaga did not miss a shot at goal, converting the three tries and also potting two penalties for the New Zealand south island outfit.
Du Plessis called the Highlanders an "amazing team" after the Sharks avenged a 34-18 defeat by the New Zealanders in Durban this season.
"Highlanders ran rings around us at times - they are an amazing side when they have the ball in hand. We certainly need to work on our defence before facing the Crusaders," he warned.
The Springbok also praised his fellow forwards for their set piece endeavours. "Our plan was to create a set-piece match and we did well in the scrums and line-outs thanks to an eight-man effort."
Highlanders fullback and co-captain Ben Smith was proud of his side although the loss ended dreams of a first Super title.
"We showed character to put up such a good show after a few poor performances lately. The ball was moved about well and we did justice to our abilities," he said.
The Highlanders dominated periods throughout the match but couldn't hold off the Sharks in the dying minutes © Getty Images
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies
Tom Hamilton runs the rule over just where the six countries stand ahead of the global gathering in September