The Sharks kept their United Rugby Championship play-off hopes alive with hard-fought victory over Leinster in Durban.
DURBAN – The Sharks discovered that there is no such thing as a weak Leinster team when they had to hang on desperately for a 28-23 win that was crucial to the Durban team’s aspirations to make the United Rugby Championship play-offs.
For the Irishmen, the game had little consequence as they had left their big names at home with an eye on the Champions Cup, but they will know that the Sharks are a sturdy outfit that needs to be taken very seriously when the competition graduates into the play-offs.
The Durbanites began strongly but twice their flyhalf, Curwin Bosch, fluffed kicks at goal, and then when Leinster first went into the Sharks’ 22 flanker Scott Penny crashed over.
The Sharks’ World Cup winger, Makazole Mapimpi intercepted when Leinster was on the attack and Bosch’s conversion levelled the score at 7-7.
But as the game hit the half-hour mark, Leinster centre Ciaran Frawley nailed a long-range penalty and then winger Tommy O’Brien cashed in beautifully when the turnover ball was kicked to the openside corner, and he gathered and sped home.
As half-time approached, Sharks fullback Aphelele Fassi broke open the Leinster defence and then offloaded for scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse to canter home.
The rain came down at half-time and a huge O’Brien up-and-under on fullback Fassi earned a penalty and Frawley steered his team into a 20-14 lead.
Ten minutes into the half, the Sharks kicked a penalty to the corner and Springbok hooker Bongi Mbonambi scored off the back of a powerful maul. And Bosch’s conversion pushed the home team into a 21-20 lead.
Frawley reclaimed the lead with a well-struck penalty.
The Sharks’ forwards were increasingly putting Leinster under the pump and when Lee Barron was sin-binned for a professional foul, the visitors were on the back foot as they defended their line, and Sharks No 8 Phepsi Buthelezi smashed over from the resulting pressure for what would be the winning score.
Sharks – Tries: Makazole Mapimpi, Jaden Hendrikse, Bongi Mbonambi, Phepsi Buthelezi. Conversions: Curwin Bosch (4).
Leinster – Tries: Scott Penny, Tommy O’Brien. Conversions: Ciaran Frawley (2). Penalties: Ciaran Frawley (3).