Sharks go top
The Sharks moved two points clear at the top of the Currie Cup standings on Saturday thanks to a 34-18 bonus-point win over the Blue Bulls at Kings Park.
The hosts outscored the Bulls four tries to two in an entertaining clash in Durban to leave the men from Pretoria rooted to the bottom of the table.
Coming off a hammering at the hands of the Lions last time out, the Bulls would have been hoping for a solid start and they got just that when Akona Ndungane opened the scoring in the fifth minute. The winger crossing after a movement that began well inside the Bulls half, with first a strong rolling maul and then some sweet passing sweeping the Sharks defence aside. Debutant fly-half Handrè Pollard added the extras.
The Sharks would not be down for long, with SP Marais notching up the home side's first try just two minutes later. The full-back was rewarded for some good commitment as he charged down his opposite number Jurgen Visser's attempted clearance before pouncing on the loose ball. Fred Zeilinga converted to tie the match up at 7-7.
A Zeilinga penalty put the Sharks ahead in the 13th minute, but both sides found themselves stymied by their own unforced errors. The Sharks in particular were unable to make the most of some strong periods of play after Bulls prop Frik Kirsten was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle in the 21st minute.
Pollard would level matters once more with a three-pointer in the 36th minute before Zeilinga edged the hosts 13-10 ahead on the stroke of half-time.
The Bulls started the second period strongly, with replacement flanker Jacques Engelbrecht making a huge impact and they were level in the 50th minute through a Pollard penalty. That would, however, be the last the Bulls had to say in the game for some time.
The Sharks turned to their bench with half an hour to play and the move paid massive dividends with Charl McLeod and Kyle Cooper in particular having an immediate influence.
The host began to find their feet and Heimar Williams went over in the corner after great work from Keegan Daniel down the blindside, the flanker beating one tackle and holding off another before passing inside to Williams.
McLeod got on the scoresheet himself in the 61st minute, working a lovely little move off the back of the scrum with Jacques Botes, the number eight picking up and running from the base before passing to the scrum-half who forced his way over.
The Bulls needed to hit back soon if they were to have any chance of grabbing a result, but they repeatedly failed to deliver when it mattered, with replacement hooker Bandise Maku delivering three skew throws in quick succession at the line-out while the Marco Wentzel began to really disrupt ball that was legally delivered.
It was Wentzel who picked up the Sharks' bonus point try, rounding off a slick break that had started when Williams grabbed a loose pass from Bulls winger Sampie Mastriet.
The Bulls would grab a consolation score five minutes from time, with Ndungane grabbing his second after good work from the Bulls forwards.
However, there was not enough time or resources available for the Bulls to mount a comeback as they went down 34-18, their second comprehensive defeat in as many weeks.
The Sharks now top the table after three rounds, while Pine Pienaar's men head back to Pretoria bottom of the standings.
Tries: Marais, Williams, McLeod, Wentzel
Cons: Zeilinga 4
Pens: Zeilinga 2
Yellow card: Chadwick
For Blue Bulls:
Tries: Ndungane 2
Pens: Pollard 2
Yellow card: Kirsten
Sharks: 15 SP Marais, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Louis Ludik, 12 Heimar Williams, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Jacques Botes (captain), 7 Jean Deysel, 6. Keegan Daniel, 5 Marco Wentzel, 4 Peet Marais, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Rayno Gerber, 18 Edwin Hewitt, 19 Justin Downey, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Butch James, 22 Jaco van Tonder
Blue Bulls: 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Sampie Mastriet, Waylon Murray,12 Ulrich Beyers, 11 Akona Ndungane, 10 Handrè Pollard, 9 Ruan Snyman, 8 Jono Ross (c), 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Wiaan Liebenberg, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Frik Kirsten, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Morné Mellett.
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 David Bullbring, 19 Jacques Engelbrecht, 20 Rudy Paige, 21 Tiaan Schoeman, 22 Clayton Blommetjies
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan