DURBAN - The Sharks secured their right to host the Currie Cup final with a 37-27 win over the Blue Bulls in their semi-final at Kings Park, in Durban, on Saturday.
The Sharks were out to a big advantage with two early tries, but to their credit, the Bulls persevered and were within four points with 20 minutes remaining in the contest.
It would be the Sharks, however, who showed why they finished top of the log heading into the knockout stages of the competition as they powered away from their beleaguered visitors in the last phase of the match.
The Sharks will play the winner of the other semi-final between Western Province and the Golden Lions.
The Sharks capitalised on a comedy of errors in the first two minutes of the match from the Bulls. First the Bulls attempted an up-and-under from their own 22, which ended up gifting the Sharks possession. When the Bulls regained the ball they knocked it on five metres out from their own line. From the resultant scrum the hosts moved the ball out wide, and Sharks centre Lukhanyo Am trotted over for an easy score. Sharks flyhalf Curwin Bosch added the extra two to make it 7-0.
A quick backline move from a lineout deep in the Bulls half, saw Sharks wing Kobus van Wyk dart through a gap for another simple try. Bosch made it 14-0 with just eight minutes played.
It did not take the Bulls long to respond as prop Pierre Schoeman muscled his way over the line after the Bulls put together a couple of phases in attack.
Bulls number 10 Marnitz Boshoff added the conversion to make it 14-7.
Just inside the 20 minute mark, Boshoff brought the Bulls to within three with a penalty at 14-10.
The Bulls were reduced to 14-men in the 22nd minute, when flank Tim Agaba was yellow-carded for an offside offence.
Boshoff added another penalty to draw to within a point of the Sharks at 14-13 after 27 minutes.
Sharks scrumhalf Louis Schreuder pounced on a scrappy ball to score from a defensive scrum of the Bulls on their line as the hosts strengthened their lead once more. Bosch added his third conversion for a 21-13 scoreline.
The Sharks pulled off a crucial score just before the interval as skipper Ruan Botha charged down an attempted clearance near the halfway line from Bulls scrumhalf Ivan van Zyl. The energetic lock made the gather before charging away for the score under the posts. Bosch nudged over the conversion for a comfortable 28-13 half-time lead.
Right after the restart, Van Zyl went on a swerving run from a ruck and was too quick for the Sharks defence as the number nine dived over for the try. Boshoff slotted the conversion to make it 28-20.
Bosch added a penalty for the Sharks in the 55th minute to make it 31-20.
Bulls skipper Burger Odendaal slipped a tackle and powered over the whitewash after the visitors had put together 14 phases in the Sharks 22. Boshoff was on target to make it a four-point game at 31-27 with a quarter of the game remaining.
Bosch produced a moment of magic with a drop-goal from 30 metres out as the Sharks moved into a 34-27 lead after 64 minutes. He added another three points with a penalty in the 69th minute, to gain a vital 37-27 advantage for the Sharks.
There would be no further change to the scoreboard, as the Sharks held out for the victory.
Scorers: Sharks 37 (28): Tries: Lukhanyo Am, Kobus van Wyk, Louis Schreuder, Ruan Botha. Conversions: Bosch (4). Penalties: Bosch (2). Drop-goal: Bosch
Bulls 27 (13): Tries: Pierre Schoeman, Ivan van Zyl, Burger Odendaal. Conversions: Boshoff (3). Penalties: Boshoff (2).
African News Agency