The Sharks claimed their first win of their Currie Cup campaign as they defeated Western Province 32-27 at Kings Park on Saturday.
Province enjoyed the majority of possession and territory, forcing the Cell C Sharks to make three times as many tackles, but brave defence and some excellent work on attack earned us a four try to three victory.
A week can be a long time in rugby, but the Cell C Sharks managed to conjure up magic this week after a slow start to the competition last week and kudos to the players for the immense work-rate to halt Province.
Despite the gusting wind, an early opportunity for points was well-executed by Curwin Bosch who sunk a nearly 50m penalty inside the opening five minutes to open our account, only for a penalty conceded in our half moments later to give former Cell C Sharks fullback SP Marais an easy kick that he converted to level matters.
Province managed to work their way close to our tryline with a multiphase attack that tested our defence, but they couldn’t break through some resolute defence, forcing the Cell C Sharks to make six times more tackles than themselves.
However, there were some sparkling moments when we did get our hands on the ball, most notably Bosch who made a wonderful break before the ball was taken into the opposition 22 area. Province were guilty of slowing the ball down and received a yellow card for cynical play. The ensuing penalty option was a scrum before Lwazi Mvovo received the ball out wide and made no mistake to score the first try of the match as the game approached the end of the first quarter.
Once more the visitors were stung into reaction and from a penalty kicked to touch, they managed to maul the ball over the tryline from the lineout. However, there was a TMO referral for obstruction and the try was disallowed. Unfortunately, there was penalty advantage and Province went the same route, this time managing to dot down successfully. Marais converted for his side to take the lead for the first time in the match.
With three minutes of the half remaining, Province found themselves under pressure once more, the ball beautifully moved to the win where Jeremy Ward took the ball down the touchline, drew two defenders before offloading the perfect pass to Kobus van Wyk who cantered in behind the posts for the second try, with Bosch converting for a 15-10 lead.
There would have been some hearts in mouths in the coaching box as Province looked to strike back once more, managing to steal the ball and twice losing possession and regaining it, before a knock-on brought an end to a high quality, entertaining half.
The second half couldn’t have started on a better note as Province, on attack, became too loose with the ball and JP Pietersen read a poor pass perfectly, poaching the ball and running untouched to the tryline for the third try. Bosch converted for a 22-10 lead.
Province, finding themselves under pressure on the scoreboard and against some brave defence, conceded a silly penalty on their own ball and with it, three easy points as the Cell C Sharks extended our lead to 15 points with 25 minutes of an exhilarating clash.
The visitors managed to take the ball through numerous phases to score their second try, again sending a penalty to touch and although the maul was initially repelled, from good recycling and patience they eventually managed to get the score.
Going into the final 10 minutes of the game, Province finally opted for a kickable penalty rather than sending it to the touchline, cutting our lead to five points, setting up a thrilling finale to the high quality match.
Two minutes later, Craig Burden proved to be the super-sub, scoring with his first touch of the ball after a great break from Rhyno Smith then Kobus van Wyk and then the perfect offload to ensure the vital score at a time when Province were threatening revenge for the last meeting between the two sides.
The drama continued as Province scored again, cutting the 12 point lead to just five again and the result not yet certain.
The topsy-turvy nature of the match was end-of-your-seat stuff, but what a result!
Man of the match Coenie Oosthuizen said afterwards, “After last week, it’s great for the boys to fire against Western province. Well done to the boys, they really gave it some heart out there.”
Cell C Sharks co-captain Tera Mtembu was smiling afterwards, saying, “Performances like this, we need to build on but we had to work right to the final minute, well done to Western province. We managed the game well, when they put us under pressure all the boys showed belief.”
For the Sharks:
Tries: Mvovo, Van Wyk, Pietersen, Burden
Cons: Bosch 3
For Western Province
Tries: Coetzee, Nel, Stander
Cons: Marais 3
Pens: Marais 2