Replacement back Rhyno Smith scored the winning try for the Sharks against the Pumas. Photo: Richard Huggard/BackpagePix

NELSPRUIT – The Sharks scored two late tries to clinch a comeback 27-25 Currie Cup win over the Pumas in Nelspruit on Friday evening.

Despite the gallant effort of the Pumas, it was the visitors who came away with all five log points after a 76th-minute try to Rhyno Smith enabled them to complete a crucial comeback.

The end result sees the Sharks extend their advantage at the top of the Currie Cup standings to a commanding nine points, while the Pumas will be left to rue what could have been.

The Pumas made an impressive start to the encounter, with right wing Ruwellyn Isbell finishing off a well-worked try in the fourth minute, while Kobus Marais slotted a penalty soon after that to establish a handy lead early on.

However, the Sharks then responded with a penalty of their own to Curwin Bosch, although the returning Springbok then missed a simple three-pointer just before the quarter-hour mark.

It didn’t disrupt the Sharks too much, though, with a beautiful pass from Bosch setting up a try for left wing Sbu Nkosi in the 22nd minute to draw the scores level.

It signalled a momentum shift as the Sharks began to apply plenty of pressure, while an impressive break from big lock Ruan Botha set up a try for Jeremy Ward just before the half-hour mark.

That sent the Sharks into a 15-8 lead, and although hooker Akker van der Merwe and then Tyler Paul were sent to the sin-bin for cynical offences just before the break, the visitors held on to that seven-point advantage at the break.

The Pumas eventually made that numerical advantage count when left wing JP Lewis was put away to score in the 46th minute, with the conversion drawing the scores level at 15-15.

Just before the Sharks were restored to a full complement of players, the Pumas once again punished them as captain and centre Hennie Skorbinski went over to score, while Marais then slotted a penalty to suddenly send the hosts into a 10-point lead.

The Sharks refused to give up, though, and came right back into the match when replacement Wian Vosloo went over to score from the back of a driving maul in the 68th minute.

Then came the defining moment late in the game, when Smith was put away to score the match-winning try.

Points-Scorers

Pumas 25 – Tries: Ruwellyn Isbell, JP Lewis, Hennie Skorbinski. Conversions: Kobus Marais (2). Penalties: Marais (2).

Sharks 27 – Tries: Sbu Nkosi, Jeremy Ward, Wian Vosloo, Rhyno Smith. Conversions: Curwin Bosch (1), Garth April (1). Penalty: Bosch (1).

African News Agency (ANA)