DURBAN – The Sharks clinched a 20-10 win over the Jaguares in Durban on Saturday to book a place in the knockout stage of Super Rugby.
Before kickoff, factors had already gone the way of the Sharks when the Highlanders claimed a win over the Rebels, which opened the door for the Durban-based side to sneak into eighth position to qualify for the playoffs.
The Sharks duly made the most of that opportunity as they comfortably claimed a deserved win over a second-string Jaguares side to secure what will be a quarter-final date against the Crusaders in Christchurch next weekend.
The home side made a steady start to proceedings at a rain-soaked Kings Park when flyhalf Robert du Preez slotted a couple of penalties.
But momentum threatened to shift the way of the Jaguares when younger Du Preez brother Dan was sent to the sin-bin for a reckless tackle.
However, even in the absence of the No 8, the Sharks somehow managed to manufacture a try to Akker van der Merwe, which sent them into a handy 13-3 lead that they would take into halftime.
It was revealing that the Sharks had enjoyed just 22 percent of both possession and territory in the first half – their ability to absorb pressure on defence and then strike against the run of play has been a hallmark of their play this season.
The Sharks were again at their opportunistic best when a beautiful break from André Esterhuizen set up a try for Kobus van Wyk in the 53rd minute, which sent the Sharks soaring into a 20-3 lead.
Up to that point, the Jaguares had hardly looked like scoring.
HIGHLIGHTS: 2018 Super Rugby Week 19: Sharks v Jaguares
The Sharks secured themselves a play-off spot with the Crusaders in New Zealand next week by defeating the Jaguares 20-10 in Durban on Saturday night.#SuperRugby #Week19 #SHAvJAG #OurSharksForever #OurSharks pic.twitter.com/V8OKIwC9Mv
Yet they briefly made matters interesting when a lovely through kick set up a try for wing Sebastian Cancelliere that cut the deficit back to 10 points.
However, the Sharks had little trouble relying on their defence from there to close out a win that clinched the final wildcard qualifying place for the knockout stage.
Sharks 20 – Tries: Akker van der Merwe, Kobus van Wyk. Conversions: Robert du Preez (2). Penalties: Du Preez (2).
Jaguares 10 – Try: Sebastian Cancelliere. Conversion: Joaquin Diaz Bonilla (1). Penalty: Bonilla (1).
African News Agency (ANA)