In another epic match at Kings Park in Durban the Sharks convincingly defeated the highly rated Bulls 32-10 to enter into the top six with only one Round of the Super Rugby season to go.
It was always going to be a fierce encounter and the Sharks showed their intent early in the match dominating possession and territory in a game they simply had to win to keep their hopes alive.
Their forwards led admirably by captain and flanker Keegan Daniel keep the pressure on the Bulls and it didn’t take long for the Sharks to put first points on the board after 11 minutes when open side flanker Marcel Coetzee slipped a clever ball to rampaging hooker Bismarck du Plessis to give the Sharks the lead 5-0.
No.10 Frederic Michalak filling in for the injured Patrick Lambie converted bringing the score to 7-0 and from this point the Sharks were never in doubt.
In fact it took the Bulls 13 minutes to finally get out of their own half and their hard work was rewarded when some great work from their forwards paid off when Morne Steyn kicked his first penalty to put the Bulls on the scoreboard trailing the Sharks 7-3.
But the first half was all about the Sharks who were playing without their three star players Lambie, lock Steven Sykes and tearaway flanker Willem Alberts all recovering from injuries picked up against England in the recent Test series.
A penalty to Michalak and one from inside centre Francois Steyn from 50 metres out kept the pressure on the hapless Bulls who tried hard but couldn’t transfer their little time spent in Sharks territory into points.
The Sharks second try in the first half came from some sustained pressure with the Bulls lacking the intensity and failing to stop the Sharks at the break down, aided by some ferocious defence put the Bulls on the back foot when winger JP Pietersen scored in the right corner in the 25th minute.
Michalak converted from the side line and the confident Sharks went into the break leading the Bulls 20-3 and the signs were not looking good for the hapless Bulls who were struggling to get into the game.
And to make the Bulls cause harder the Sharks didn’t waste time to rub it in when captain Keegan Daniel scored the Sharks third try only three minutes into the second half to lead 25-3 with a crucial bonus point only one try away.
At this stage the Bulls finally snapped into action and put pressure on the Sharks by controlling the football for long passages before Bulls full back Zane Kirchner scored his 20th Super Rugby try to give the Bulls fans some hope, faint as it may have been.
But the Sharks quickly regathered control of the match and the momentum began to swing back their way ending with a bonus point victory when full back Louis Ludik scored their forth try to send their fans into raptures and put the Sharks into sixth place on 54 points with only one Round left to play.
Man of the Match was Sharks No.8 Ryan Kankowski who had a great game but who sadly will be heading to Japan after the Super Rugby season and no doubt he will be missed by his team-mates because he plays the game hard and direct.
The Sharks chances of making the final six looks good because they play their last game at home against the lowly rated Cheetahs just as the Bulls play the last placed Lions almost guaranteeing that South Africa will have three teams in the finals play-offs.
It was a great match between two traditional advisories but at the end of the day the Sharks simply wanted victory more than the Bulls who looked lethargic and uninterested.