Sharks break WP hearts

Sharks prop Danie Saayman scored a try after the full-time hooter to snatch a 28-25 Absa Currie Cup victory against Western Province at Newlands on Saturday.

With time up on the clock, the Sharks were awarded a penalty inside the red zone, from which Saayman was driven over. Referee Jonathan Kaplan referred the decision to the TMO, who gave the green light after seeing the replay.

The Sharks were facing defeat when they trailed 18-25 with 15 minutes to go, but Butch James began the comeback with a penalty.

The Natalians appeared to have scored again when a grubber from replacement centre Gcobani Bobo resulted in a five-pointer for AJ Venter. However, Kaplan reversed his decison to award the try after the touch judge raised a flag for an earlier off-the-ball charge from James on Gio Aplon.

To make things worse for the visitors, James was yellow carded and walked off to a chorus of boos, although he did return to play a part in the match-winning try.

Overall, it was a hot-and-cold performance from Dick Muir’s side.

They spent the majority of the opening quarter inside WP territory, but the Sharks backline failed to round off a number of try-scoring opportunties set up by the pack.

A penalty from James was small reward for several attacks on the Province tryline, but the visitors finally went over on the 20-minute mark when Dusty Noble finished off a move that began inside their half. A clever inside pass from Odwa Ndungane had put Grant Rees into space, who in turn found Noble on his outside.

WP hit back almost immediately when Corne Uys received posession on the blind side, chipped over the Sharks defenders and regathered to score in the left-hand corner.

A turnover then saw Chumani Booi break away down the right-hand touchline and offload to Aplon, who shrugged off the tackle of Scott Mathie to score near the posts. Naas Olivier again missed the conversion to leave the teams locked at 10-all.

The Sharks should have regained the lead just before the break when Noble found space on the left, but Adrian Jacobs took the tackle when he had Mathie in the clear on his outside. Not surprisingly, the ball was turned over and kicked into touch by Peter Grant.

It was WP who edged in front after half-time, when another turnover coupled with missed tackles from Jacobs and Rees saw Aplon score his second in the corner.

Grant, having taken over the kicking duties, missed the touchline conversion, but then kicked a penalty to give Province an eight-point lead.

Just when it looked like the game was slipping away from the Sharks, James put Noble into space and he sent Brett Hennessey away for their second try. James’s conversion attempt went wide, but he made ammends soon after with a penalty that levelled the scores at 18-all.

WP’s pack has copped their fair share of criticism over the years, but it was a well-executed driving maul that saw captain Luke Watson grab his side’s bonus-point try.

However, it was the Sharks who finished strongly and took the full five points from a match they probably should have lost.

WP - Tries: Corne Uys, Gio Aplon (2), Luke Watson. Conversion: Peter Grant. Penalty: Grant.
Sharks - Tries: Dusty Noble, Brett Hennessey, Danie Saayman. Conversions: Butch James (2). Penalties: James (3).

By Simon Borchardt, at Newlands