Lwazi Mvovo scored a hat-trick the match-winning try with five minutes to go as the Sharks produced a bonus-point 38-17 Super Rugby victory over the Sunwolves in Singapore on Saturday.
Despite a comprehensive 21-7 lead at halftime, the Durban-based side were unable to put the Japanese outfit away, and it nearly came back to bite them.
But coach Robert du Preez’s team ran in three tries in the final five minutes to register a crucial bonus point that will greatly aid their playoff quest.
Springbok speedster Mvovo got the ball rolling for the Sharks when he finished off a sweeping move that was sparked by new flyhalf Garth April inside their own 22.
A number of players handled the ball as the Sharks surged upfield, and once they got into the Sunwolves 22, Mvovo’s quick feet helped him slip a tackle and go over.
But despite being dominated in the scrums and in the forward battle upfront, the Sunwolves never gave up and they were rewarded for their efforts when hooker Takeshi Hino powered over after a sharp pass from lively scrumhalf Fumiaki Tanaka.
The Sharks, though, exerted continuous pressure in the scrum and after winning a midfield penalty, they booted it into touch to set up a driving maul that was finished by Ruan Botha crashing over in the 23rd minute.
The Durbanites grew in confidence as the first half wore on, and the backs came into their own as an end-to-end passage of play saw centre Lukhanyo Am putting wing S’bu Nkosi over for a vital five-pointer before the break for a 21-7 halftime lead.
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The Japanese side increased the pace and had the Sharks scrambling in defence, and the pressure eventually told as Tanaka beautifully delayed his pass for flank Shuhei Matshuhashi to score.
Replacement flyhalf Jumpei Ogura added a penalty in the 63rd minute, and suddenly it was 21-17, with the Sharks desperately trying to hold on to their lead.
Captain Philip van der Walt found a second wind, though, and after they were thwarted twice in the space of a few minutes, Mvovo grabbed his second to put the result beyond doubt.
But there was still time to secure a bonus point, and the Sharks did it in style as Nkosi darted over for his second and Mvovo rounded off with his hat-trick.
Sunwolves 17 – Tries: Takeshi Hino, Shuhei Matsuhashi. Conversions: Yu Tamura (2). Penalty: Jumpei Ogura (1).
Sharks 38 – Tries: Lwazi Mvovo (3), Ruan Botha, S’bu Nkosi (2). Conversions: Garth April (3), Benhard Janse van Rensburg (1).
African News Agency (ANA)