France fly-half Frederic Michalak played a key role as KwaZulu-Natal Sharks edged the Blue Bulls 14-9 on Saturday to win the Currie Cup for the first time in 12 years.
He marked his final match after a season in South Africa by featuring in tries from scrum-half Ruan Pienaar and center Francois Steyn that swung a thriller in favor of the home team, who led 7-3 at halftime.
“It is amazing. I wish to thank all the Sharks supporters, you beauties. I think everyone in France is happy too,” Michalak told SuperSport television during the medal presentation.
Michalak, who turned 26 this month, was involved in a 25th-minute move that took the Sharks close to the Bulls line and when the ball emerged from the ruck, Pienaar evaded several tackles to dive over for a try he converted.
Bulls fly-half Morne Steyn replied with a penalty and drop goal either side of halftime on an evening when rival place kickers missed many shots at goal in the national inter-provincial championship final.
At 7-6 for the Sharks midway through the second half, the next score was going to be crucial and it was another try for the black-and-white local heroes before a capacity 50,000 crowd.
Michalak slipped two tackles before passing to veteran full-back Stefan Terblance, who sent Rugby World Cup winner Steyn over for a try the Frenchman converted with a superb angled kick.
Steyn kicked another penalty to cut the deficit to five points, but after three final losses since their last Currie Cup success, the Springbok-laden Sharks were in no mood for surrender.
The Durban-based team topped the 14-round mini-league and were widely considered the best team in a competition dominated by the Free State Cheetahs for three seasons before their semi-final loss to the Bulls this month.
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