Coastal Sharks ran in seven tries to score an emphatic 47-25 win against the Waikato Chiefs on Saturday to make sure of their place in the Super 14 semi-finals.
Needing to win with a bonus point to qualify for the southern hemisphere inter-provincial competition’s last four, the Sharks will now travel to Sydney to face the New South Wales Waratahs next week in the semi-final.
In the other semi-final, Canterbury Crusaders will host Wellington Hurricanes. Sharks knocked their countrymen, the Western Stormers, who’d won earlier in the day against the Golden Lions, out of the top four places with their victory.
Sharks fly-half Ruan Pienaar got the scoreboard rolling when he stepped his way past opposite number Stephen Donald on the 20 minute mark. Just a few minutes later it was the turn of center Adrian Jacobs to round off a counter-attack in which Pienaar had played a big part. Both tries were converted by Rory Kockott.
The Chiefs struck their first blow just minutes from the interval when Faifili Levave rounded off after his team were awarded a penalty in striking distance and when it was taken quickly, the Sharks defense never had time to get into position to halt the attack.
But the Sharks finished the first period in the ascendancy when hooker Bismarck du Plessis crashed over the line. Kockott’s conversion made it 21-8 at the half-time break.
The visitors struck a double blow almost immediately after the restart when Mils Muliaina went in at the corner and then Donald soon added a penalty to his conversion to narrow the gap to three points (18-21).
But midway through the half, the Sharks regained their momentum and scored their bonus point try thorugh Steven Sykes, before Ryan Kankowski crossed for tries five and six in the space of seven minutes to sew up the game.
Winger Odwa Ndungane then added try number seven, but the visitors did get a consolation third try late in the game when replacement Viliame Waqaseduadua went over.
Meanwhile, Bryan Habana dotted down twice, as Super 14 title holders Northern Bulls crushed Central Cheetahs 60-20 in their match on Saturday. Fellow wing Akona Ndungane also scored two tries in the all-South Africa clash.