CAPE TOWN – The Sharks overturned a 20-14 halftime deficit with a strong second-half performance to clinch a 21-20 victory in their Currie Cup clash at a chilly Newlands on Saturday.
Western Province absorbed long spells of second half pressure and at one stage it looked like their advantage at the break might be a match-winning one. But five minutes from the end, the Sharks made the breakthrough after a string of scoring chances went a begging.
Western Province suffered a second-minute setback when they incurred the wrath of referee Jaco Peyper who awarded the Sharks a penalty try. Province were adjudged to have infringed when the Sharks' driving maul, sprung the back of a 5m line-out, which was held up a metre from the whitewash (7-0).
Damian Willemse, the WP flyhalf, opened his side's scoring account with a 35m penalty (7-3) and it seemed like that was the cue for his team to take the initiative. The result was two tries under the posts in the space of seven minutes.
First centre Huw Jones crossed in the 15th minute and then flanker Jaco Coetzee dotted down in the 22nd minute to punish several instances of shoddy tackling by the Sharks in their own 22m area. Willemse was on target with both conversion attempts (17-7).
The Sharks staged a gallant fightback over the next 10 minutes and pinned WP down in their half, but poor handling put paid to at least two scoring opportunities out wide. Eventually, WP turned the tide with a scrum penalty, five metres from their tryline.
The Sharks stormed back in the picture six minutes ahead of the halftime break with a well-taken try by hooker Franco Marais after former WP halfback Louis Schreuder showed some nifty touches in the build-up work. Fullback Inny Radebe steered the conversion through the posts from the touchline, to reduce the deficit to three points as the teams headed dow the tunnel for a breather.
WP started the second half on a high note when they shoved their opponents off the ball and launched a few attacks down the flanks without success. Instead, they relied on the trusty boot of Willemse for their next score and he did so via a 35m penalty, just five minutes into the half (20-14).
Both sides tried hard to impose themselves on the match with a flurry of hand-to-hand passing movements but stout defence kept further score out, although the Sharks probably spurned as many as four gilt-edged chances to breach WP's lines.
Ten minutes ahead of the end, WP were reduced to 14 when substitute Steph de Wit was yellow-carded. The Sharks kicked the subsequent penalty into touch and then lost the throw at the line-out.
A minute later, the Sharks crossed the tryline in the next move but the try was disallowed when TV replays showed the scorer Odwa Ndungane had knocked-on.
But the Sharks managed the breakthrough four minutes from the end when fullback Inny Radebe scored a try at the Railway Stand corner flag. Rhyno Smith goaled the pressure kick from the touchline to snatch victory for the KZN visitors.
Scorers: WP: 20 (17): Tries: Huw Jones, Jaco Coetzee. Conversions: Damian Willemse (2). Penalties: Willemse (2)
Sharks: 21 (14): Try: Penalty try, Franco Marais, Inny Radebe. Conversions: Inny Radebe, Rhyno Smith