Three tries each in Johannesburg
The Sharks retained their place at the top of the 2013 Currie Cup standings with a nailbiting 31-25 win over the Golden Lions.
They are just ahead of Western Province on points' difference, with both sitting on 28 points.
The high-paced encounter between the Sharks and Lions at Ellis Park on Friday saw the teams score three tries apiece, with the Lions' losing bonus point keeping them entrenched in third place (on 21 points).
The Lions must have wondered what they did to upset referee Jason Jafta, who often found fault with the manner in which they dominated in set piece play.
Despite a number of questionable calls, both teams appeared unperturbed and threw themselves wholeheartedly into a high-tempo game in which defence was not always at a premium.
The Sharks certainly had the better start, as a startled Lions team struggled with the early pace. And when it mattered most, in the closing stages, the Sharks' defence held out a hard-charging Lions team.
Another aspect of their game that was the home team's undoing was their porous defence, which has been a major problem all season.
The Lions also need to find themselves a proper scrumhalf if they are to be more effective with this high-tempo game they are playing.
The Lions will be concerned about midfielder Dylan des Fountain, who left the field in the first half with what appeared to be a serious knee injury. Given that he has undergone surgery more than once already, this will not be good news.
The game got off to a controversial start - Fred Zeilinga slotting a drop-goal after the referee had awarded a free kick to the Sharks, despite their scrum being on the retreat at a great rate.
The Lions wasted no time in getting back on level terms, Elton Jantjies slotting a penalty after the Lions had a powerful charge at the Sharks line and the visitors infringed at the breakdown.
Zeilinga slotted his second drop-goal in the 12th minute, after the Sharks had tested the Lions' defence with a couple of raids.
The Sharks flyhalf continued to dominate proceedings, as he ran a brilliant support line - after having made the initial break - to score the opening try. He added he conversion for a 13-3 lead.
That became 16-3, when Zeilinga slotted a penalty at the end of the first quarter, after the referee again saw fit to penalise a very dominant Lions scrum.
It didn't take the Lions too long to get their running game going, a sublime offload from Anthony Volmink putting Derick Minnie over for the home team's first try. The counter was started by a break from Marnitz Boshoff inside his 22. Jantjies added the conversion - 10-16.
Sharks captain Keegan Daniel was very fortunate not to be carded after he entered a ruck like a flying missile, clearly ff his feet, but the penalty allowed Jantjies to narrow the gap to 13-16.
The Lions hit the front just minutes from half-time - setting up a line-out after winning a penalty near halfway. After a strong maul they took the ball through a few phases, till Warren Whiteley ran a great line and used his power to barge over for the try that put the Lions in the lead for the first time. Jantjies' conversion made it 20-16, which is how it stayed to the break.
Five minutes into the second half Zeilinga slotted a penalty from inside his own half to make it a one-point game.
Just like the first half, the Sharks got away from the Lions - their second try coming after Kyle Cooper won a turnover and the Sharks were then awarded a penalty. A quick tap by Charl McLeod caught the Lions' defence napping - sending SP Marais over. Zeilinga couldn't add the extras - 24-20.
They match now evolved into a game of chess, with field position becoming vital.
With 15 minutes left on the clock he Lions found a higher gear and Jaco Kriel, as he so often does, came up with a crucial try. Marnitz Boshoff, who had taken over the goal-kicking after Elton Jantjies departed, pushed it wide - making it a one-point game, 25-24.
The Lions' poor defence gifted the Sharks their next try, with the ever alert Cobus Reinach sniping around the side of a static maul and racing clear for the Sharks' third five-pointer. Zeilinga's conversion made it 31-25, with just over 10 minutes remaining.
The Lions continued to push hard, looking for the winner, and they even had a TMO overrule a possible try after going over the line.
And the Sharks, employing some cynical time-delaying tactics at scrum time, managed to run the clock down for a vital win.
Man of the match: It was the usual suspects for the Lions - the loose trio of Warren Whiteley, Derick Minnie and Jaco Kriel, along with lock Franco van der Merwe and fullback Marnitz Boshoff. Kyle Cooper's ability to turn the ball over at the breakdown was again vital. However, our award goes to young Sharks flyhalf Fred Zeilinga. The Sharks may not be a one-man band, but Zeilinga made a good effort of winning the game on his own.
For the Golden Lions:
Tries: Minnie, Whiteley, Kriel
Cons: Jantjies 2
Pens: Jantjies 2
For the Sharks:
Tries: Zeilinga, Marais, Reinach
Cons: Zeilinga 2
Pens: Zeilinga 2
DGs: Zeilinga 2
Golden Lions: 15 Marnitz Boshoff, 14 Andries Coetzee, 13 Deon Helberg, 12 Dylan des Fountain, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Derick Minnie (captain), 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Chris van Zyl, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 CJ van der Linde.
Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Willie Britz, 19 Warwick Tecklenberg, 20 Guy Cronje, 21 Grant Janke, 22 Ruhan Nel.
Sharks: 15 SP Marais, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Tim Whitehead, 12 Heimar Williams, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel (captain), 7 Lubabalo Mtembu, 6 Justin Downey, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Peet Marais, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Replacements: 16 Monde Hadebe, 17 Danie Mienie, 18 Edwin Hewitt, 19 Brynard Stander, 20 Cobus Reinach, 21 Andrew James, 22 Jaco van Tonder.
Referee: Jason Jaftha
Assistant Referees: Jaco Kotze, Stefan Breytenbach
TMO: Johan Greeff