Two late tries gave the Sharks a deserved 37-28 Absa Currie Cup win at Loftus Versfeld on Friday night.
Trailing 28-25 with seven minutes to play the visitors turned on the power and scored their fourth and fifth tries of the night. It means the Sharks go home with five log points and the Bulls get nothing.
The Bulls led 16-15 at the break.
The Sharks were full value for the win and scored five tries to the home teams’ three. And the Bulls had initially leapt into a 13-0 lead as they started strongly and gave the 30 094 fans something to shout about.
A good portion of those fans though were dressed in black and white and waving Sharks flags. It wasn’t long before they had something to shout about.
But when centre Gcobani Bobo crashed over in the 24th minute it signalled the beginning of a long period of Sharks dominance. Another try – this time by Ruan Pienaar – took the gap to a single point at the interval.
But the Sharks pack were dominating the tight exchanges. And incredibly it was the Sharks forwards who employed the driving maul to good effect. at on stage they marched the hapless Bulls pack back nearly 50m.
The score-line was always close and after the Bulls had led 16-3 after 21 minutes, the Sharks fought back to lead 22-16 after 46 minutes.
After that it was pretty much tit for tat, but the Bulls were mostly playing catch up to a side that looked well drilled and made far fewer errors than their Bulls counterparts.
In the end, tries by Grant Rees (73rd min) and Keegan Daniel (78th min) were just reward for a superb effort. The Bulls showed glimpses of their true self, but a major improvement is needed if they hope to make their fifth final in-a-row.
Blue Bulls - Tries: John Mametsa (8th min), Neil Powell (48 mins), Adriaan Fondse (67th min)
Conversions: Morne Steyn 2 (8th min, 67th min)
Penalties: Steyn 3 (2nd min, 15th min, 21st min)
Sharks - Tries: Gcobani Bobo (24th min), Ruan Pienaar (33rd min), Craig Burden (46th min), Grant Rees (73rd min), Keegan Daniel (78th min)
Conversions: Pienaar 3 (33rd min, 46th min, 78th min)
Penalties: Pienaar 2 (18th min, 53rd min)
78 mins: TRY Sharks back on attack. Sustain pressure leads to replacement Keegan Daniel ghosting through under the poles. Pienaar convers to deny the Bulls even a bonus point. (5/9) SHARKS 37-28
73 mins: TRY Bulls camped on own line. Huge pressure from the visitors. A poor pass from Powell sees Steyn knock and Grant Rees pounces. Crucially perhaps, Pienaar misses. (4/8) SHARKS 30-28
70 mins: Again the Sharks go for touch. Obviously in search of the bonus point try. They drive and drive. Another penalty. Another chat. Cards can’t be far away. Welsh talks to his players. Another lineout 5m out.
67 mins: TRY The game is opening up nicely. The Bulls are on attack. Another TMO decision. And it is awarded again after plenty of thought. Adriaan Fondse is the man who is credited. Steyn converts. (5/6) BULLS 28-25
65 mins: Bulls are trying to be more adventurous, but the Sharks are solid. The packs are trying to give it to each other.
62 mins: Sharks spurn another easy three points to go for touch. Bulls come away
60 mins: Welsh kicks out on the full and gifts the ball back to the Sharks in a good position, about 30m out.
57 mins: Scrum Bulls in midfield. Welsh puts it out on halfway.
53 mins: Bulls pinged for offside again. This time Pienaar is on target. (4/7) SHARKS 25-21
52 mins: Pienaar misses again with a difficult penalty chance. (3/6)
48 mins: TRY Bulls immediately onto attack. Deep in Sharks territory. Lineout to Bulls 5m out. Hottie Louw takes. They drive. Scrumhalf Neil Powell just replaced Adams darts blind and scores in the corner. Steyn’s kick misses. (4/5) SHARKS 22-21
46 mins: TRY After a period of intense pressure, the Sharks stretch the Bulls and left wing Craig Burden bounces over. Pienaar adds the extras. (3/5) SHARKS 22-16
43 mins: Sharks penalty in kickable position, but they chose to go for touch instead. Another penalty. Pienaar taps. Sharks control.
41 mins: A good Sharks attack ends in touch when Bulls wing John Mametsa scrambles the ball away.
HALF-TIME: BULLS 16 SHARKS 15
39 mins: Pienaar attempts a kick from nearly 60m, but it’s short.
38 mins: Steyn drop hits the left upright. Sharks come away.
33 mins: TRY Sharks come back and are camped in Bulls 22. Lineout Sharks, 5m out. Ruck after ruck is formed. Then Pienaar glides through under the poles. He converts. (2/4) BULLS 16-15
30 mins: Sharks putting on huge pressure, but Bulls escape after good defence.
27 mins: Crash ball by Dries Scholtz and then good hands by Basson puts the ball out near Sharks line. Sharks throw. They drive the Bulls back nearly 50m! And then earn a penalty.
24 mins: TRY Gcobani Bobo crashes over for the Sharks after some poor tackling by the Bulls. Good work by the Sharks. Pienaar’s conversion is wide. (1/3) BULLS 16-8
21 mins: Sharks captain AJ Venter is penalised for a tackle on Bulls scrumhalf Heini Adams in the air. Steyn slots it. (4/4) BULLS 16-3
18 mins: Sharks penalty. This time Pienaar gets it right. (1/2) BULLS 13-3
15 mins: Penalty to Bulls. Steyn lines it up about 40m out on the angle. No mistake. (3/3) BULLS 13-0
13 mins: Sharks attack ends when a stupid chip kick is gathered by Stefan Basson.
10 mins: Sharks opt for the touchline instead of posts. They drive. Bismarck du Plessis is over, but the TMO rules a double movement. Penalty Bulls. Steyn clears.
8 mins: TRY From the ensuing 5m scrum the Bulls swing it wide to John Mametsa and the TMO is called again to decide and it’s good. Steyn converts. (2/2) BULLS 10-0
7 mins: Bulls come desperately close to the first try of the game through captain Frikkie Welsh, but the TMO says no after lengthy deliberation.
4 mins: Bulls steal lineout ball, but they turn it over at the breakdown. Sharks counter. Penalty to the visitors in virtually the mirror image position as the Bulls one earlier. Ruan Pienaar though misses left. (0/1)
2 mins: Penalty to the Bulls for hands in the ruck. Morne Steyn slots it from 25m out. (1/1) BULLS 3-0
1 min: Brad Barritt gets the game underway.
Blue Bulls: 15 Stefan Basson, 14 John Mametsa, 13 JP Nel, 12 Dries Scholtz, 11 Frikkie Welsh (captain), 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Heini Adams; 8 Pedrie Wannenburg, 7 Tim Dlulane, 6 Warren Brosnihan, 5 Francois van Schouwenburg, 4 Hottie Louw, 3 Rayno Gerber, 2 Kobus van der Walt, 1 Wessel Roux.
Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Jaco Engels, 18 Adriaan Fondse, 19 Hilton Lobberts, 20 Niel Powell, 21 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 22 Johan Roets.
Sharks: 15 Odwa Ndungane, 14 Dusty Noble, 13 Gcobani Bobo, 12 Grant Rees, 11 Craig Burden, 10 Bradley Barritt, 9 Ruan Pienaar; 8 AJ Venter (captain), 7 Jacques Botes, 6 Warren Britz, 5 Steven Sykes, 4 Wouter Moore, 3 Danie Saayman, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Kees Lensing.
Replacements: 16 Skipper Badenhorst, 17 BJ Botha, 18 Ryan Kankowski, 19 Keegan Daniel, 20 Scott Mathie, 21 Andrew Binikos, 22 Mzwandile Stick.
By Andrew Hollely, at Loftus Versfeld