Sharks (13) 34
Bulls (10) 18
Durban - The Sharks made a serious statement of intent in the Currie Cup on Saturday night when they grappled with a determined Bulls team before running away with the game in the last quarter.
The Currie Cup has mostly been a scrappy affair, but this match was of improved quality and, apart from some untidy set-piece work from both sides, especially in the line-outs, much better phase play produced some excellent tries.
The Bulls were far better than they had been in their catastrophic match against the Lions, while the Sharks continued on the upward trajectory since their first round loss, on this ground, to Griquas, who have not won since.
It was a compelling performance from a Sharks side that rolled with the punches in an even first half.
The Sharks have one of the better mixes of youth and experience, and there were big games from stalwart Keegan Daniel and the 20-year-old Fred Zeilinga.
The latter mixed up the game nicely at flyhalf between kicking accurately for territory and spreading it wide. Heimar Williams at centre and SP Marais at fullback also showed they are players of the future.
The much-chastised Bulls had said all week that they were going to make amends for their humiliation at the hands of the Lions and they started with serious intent.
Their try after just four minutes to Akona Ndungane was a good team effort that saw them run with purpose through the phases before the veteran winger was on hand to finish.
It seemed the Sharks were once again off to a poor start – in their previous three games they were significantly behind at half-time – but they replied almost immediately.
Zeilinga kicked into the corner from the restart and the clearance kick was charged down by Marais, who then scored in the corner, and Zeilinga was up to the difficult conversion to lock it out at 7-7.
Not long after, Zeilinga nailed a difficult penalty attempt from 35m out to give the Sharks the lead after 13 minutes.
As the game hit the second quarter, 19-year-old Handre Pollard, on debut, seemed to have levelled the scores with a fine drop goal from way out, but in the build-up to the kick, prop Frik Kirsten had committed a tip tackle and was yellow carded – and the SA Under-21 flyhalf’s effort did not count.
The Sharks had a similar experience in the 30th minute when a try was fairly disallowed because of obstruction, but, had it counted, it would have been one of the tries of the season because of the efficient phase play that led to Odwa Ndungane scoring between the uprights.
The Bulls equalised through Pollard not long before half-time, when another excellent period of play ended in a close range penalty, but, right on the hooter, Zeilinga kicked a telling penalty to give the Sharks the lead at the interval.
The Bulls had started the second half in the same mood as they had the first, and had a TMO decision go against them after just four minutes, but earned a penalty which Pollard kicked against the upright.
Not long after, the Sharks were penalised at a set scrum and this time Pollard made no mistake to level the scores.
The Sharks responded within seconds and a superb break down the openside touchline by Daniel saw centre Williams up in support to take the inside pass and score.
The Sharks then hammered home the advantage when a strong set scrum near the Bulls line gave No 8 Jacques Botes the opportunity to break blind and feed Charl McLeod, who darted over for the score. The scrumhalf had just come on for Cobus Reinach to earn his 50th Currie Cup cap.
With the score 27-13, the question was whether the Bulls could respond.
They were given a lifeline when Dale Chadwick was yellow carded for a scrum infringement deep in the home side’s 22, but they could not capitalise, and a Williams break ended with lock Marco Wentzel dotting down in the corner at the other end.
Sharks: Tries: SP Marais, Heimar Williams, Charl McLeod, Marco Wentzel. Conversions: Fred Zeilinga (4). Penalties: Zeilinga (2)
Bulls: Tries: Akona Ndungane (2). Conversions: Handre Pollard. Penalties: Pollard (2)