Lwazi Mvovo scored a superb chip-and-chase try to secure a 25-12 victory for Coastal Sharks over the Golden Lions on Saturday and top place on the Super 15 table.
The Durban franchise were just three points ahead in a fiercely contested South African showdown at Ellis Park in Johannesburg when fullback Mvovo struck 13 minutes from time.
Center S’bura Sithole forced a turnover near the touchline and Mvovo darted down the flank, caught his chip and darted over to land a decisive blow against the Lions.
Francois Steyn, who started at inside center and moved to fly-half midway through the opening half when Fred Zeilinga pulled a hamstring, converted.
The 2007 Rugby World Cup winner added a penalty to complete the scoring and give the Sharks a two-point lead at the top.
The Sharks have 27 points, the ACT Brumbies 25 and the Waikato Chiefs 24 on the combined southern hemisphere provincial championship standings.
It was the sixth victory in seven outings for an experienced team coached by 2007 World Cup-winning coach Jake White, but five of the games have been at home.
The Lions remain ninth with 16 points as an eight-match sequence of winning two games and then losing two continued having failed against the Canterbury Crusaders the previous weekend.
“That was a really tough game and it took us a long time to score a try against a brilliant Lions defense,” Sharks hooker and skipper Bismarck du Plessis said. “We have made a good start to the season, but there is a long road ahead and the last five league games will be crucial.”
Lions No. 8 and skipper Warren Whiteley praised his teammates for battling bravely to try and avenge a 37-23 early-season loss in Durban.
“We matched the Sharks for 60 minutes, but were not clinical enough when the team got close to the try-line,” he said. “Let me give credit to the Sharks for capitalizing on our mistakes — some of those penalties from Francois Steyn were magnificent.”
Steyn slotted two monster early-second half penalties to earn the Sharks a six-point advantage after the first half finished 6-6 before a 30,000 crowd.
Zeilinga kicked two early penalties within a minute before being forced off, and leading Super 15 scorer Marnitz Boshoff also potted two shots at goal. Boshoff slotted two more penalties in the second half, raising his season total to 121 points, and Steyn landed his third penalty before Mvovo struck.
The Canterbury Crusaders scored four last-quarter tries to defeat the Central Cheetahs 52-31 in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
It was the first clean sweep by the New Zealand side in South Africa since 2008, after they beat the Golden Lions in Johannesburg last weekend.
And it was the first victory by the record seven-time Super Rugby champions over the Cheetahs since 2007 in the republic.
Victory lifted the Crusaders five places to seventh and into the hunt for a top-six finish and a play-off spot in the southern hemisphere provincial championship.
“That was a job well done and we must build on it,” said Crusaders skipper and No. 8 Kieran Read, back after missing the Johannesburg triumph through injury. “A combination of brilliance and tiredness contributed to eight second-half tries and we got ourselves out of trouble after trailing with 20 minutes left.”
Cheetahs hooker and skipper Adriaan Strauss blamed poor discipline as his side slumped to a sixth loss in eight games this season after reaching last year’s playoffs.