The Coastal Sharks played themselves back into contention for Super Rugby honors when they beat the Western Stormers 25-20 at Kings Park on Saturday.
Their fourth successive win lifted the Sharks into third place on the South African conference log, five points behind the Stormers and three behind the Northern Bulls.
Stormers went into the weekend as overall log leaders after winning 10 of their first 11 matches, but they were knocked out of their stride by a combative Sharks team, who dominated the scrums and were stronger at the breakdown.
Sharks were also able to put pressure on the Stormers’ lineout, normally one of the Cape side’s strengths.
“It was tough, but we came up with a game plan,” Sharks captain Keegan Daniel said.
However, the Durban side had to withstand a strong second-half challenge as the Stormers fought back from a 19-point deficit with two converted tries by fullback Gio Aplon.
Stormers led 6-3 early in the game after two penalty goals by flyhalf Peter Grant against one by Sharks fullback Patrick Lambie.
The match changed dramatically in the 18th minute when the Sharks were awarded a penalty in front of the Stormers’ posts.
With the Stormers seemingly expecting the home side to take an easy three points with a kick at goal, Sharks scrumhalf Charl McLeod took a quick tap and sent out a long pass to French flyhalf Frederic Michalak, who twisted over for a try Lambie converted.
A penalty by Lambie was followed by a second Sharks try three minutes from halftime when a powerful scrum set up Daniel to dive over. A conversion by Lambie gave the Sharks a 20-6 lead at the break.
Left wing Lwazi Mvovo squeezed over in the left corner for a third try as the Sharks continued their domination, but a breakaway try by Aplon, who ran 60m after picking up a wild pass by Michalak, gave the Stormers hope with 27 minutes left.
The Stormers pressed strongly as rain fell in the last 20 minutes, with Aplon scoring a second try from a scrum move eight minutes from time.
“We made a lot of mistakes, but the better team won tonight,” Stormers captain and inside center Jean de Villiers said.
The Stormers were forced to start with hooker Deon Fourie at flanker after Siya Kolisi was ruled out shortly before the match, continuing a string of injuries.