Sharks see off plucky Bulls
MATCH REPORT: The Sharks advanced to the 2017 Currie Cup Final after they beat the Blue Bulls 37-27 in their Currie Cup semifinal clash in Durban on Saturday.
The home side outscored their opponents by four tries to three in an open and entertaining clash at Kings Park.
Flyhalf Curwin Bosch was also in fine form contributing 17 points with the boot, which included a well-taken drop goal.
The Sharks will now contest their first Currie Cup Final since 2013 against either Western Province or the Golden Lions.
The Sharks were camped inside the Bulls' 22 in the opening minutes of the game and they eventually opened the scoring when Lukhanyo Am was put into space from a scrum five metres from the visitors' tryline. Curwin Bosch converted the try for a 7-0 lead after four minutes.
The home side then increased their lead a few minutes later when wing Jacobus van Wyk broke through the Bulls' defence from a line-out and sprinted in under the polls for his team's second try, which Bosch converted as well.
The Bulls needed a big response to get back in the game and they did exactly that when prop Pierre Schoeman stretched over for a try in the 11th minute after the Bulls had a rare attacking foray in the Sharks' 22. Marnitz Boshoff added the extras with conversion to reduce the deficit to seven points.
Boshoff then brought the Bulls closer in the 20th minute when he converted a penalty into three points after some ill-discipline from the Sharks.
However, the visitors suffered a setback moments later when loose forward Tim Agaba was yellow carded for cynical play inside his own half.
Despite playing with 14 men, the Bulls were the next to score when Boshoff slotted a penalty after some sustained pressure deep inside the Sharks' half.
The Bulls' hard work to get back into the game was then undone when they gifted the Sharks a try in the 30th minute.
Bulls centre John Jackson failed to collect a poor ball from a scrum five metres from his own tryline with Sharks scrumhalf Louis Schreuder collecting the loose ball to go over for the score. Bosch added the extra two points with the conversion.
The Sharks were nearly over again in the 36th minute with prop Thomas du Toit losing the ball over the tryline after some great interplay between the forwards in the Bulls' 22.
The home side did eventually get their fourth try before half-time when captain Ruan Botha charged down Ivan van Zyl's box kick in the Bulls' half before collecting and sprinting in for the score, which Bosch converted.
At half-time, the Sharks were looking comfortable with a 28-13 lead.
The Bulls needed to score first in the second half to keep their hopes alive and that is what they did when the Sharks failed to secure possession at the restart before Bulls scrumhalf Ivan van Zyl capitalised and evaded a few defenders to go over for a converted try.
The visitors continued to dominate play in the opening 15 minutes of the second half before Bosch gave the Sharks some much-need breathing space with a three-pointer in the 55th minute.
However, the Bulls were not going to lie down after that score and they hit back in the 60th minute when captain Burger Odendaal crashed over for a try after his side held onto possession for a number of phases in the Sharks half. Boshoff converted the try and the Bulls were only four points behind with 20 minutes to play.
The Sharks looked to get some more breathing space after Boshoff's penalty and they were rewarded when Bosch landed a superb drop goal in the 65th minute to extend his side's lead to seven points.
That lead soon became 10 points when Bosch landed another penalty in the 69th minute.
The Bulls tried to fight their way back into it, but they couldn't find a way past the Sharks' defence in the final 10 minutes.
Man of the match: Flyhalf Curwin Bosch had a solid game in the flyhalf channel, while loose forwards Jean-Luc and Daniel du Preez were physically dominant on most occasions. However, the award goes to Sharks captain Ruan Botha, who certainly led by example with a strong all-round game and he scored a fantastic try as well.
Tries: Am, Van Wyk, Schreuder, Botha
Cons: Bosch 4
Pens: Bosch 2
For Blue Bulls:
Tries: Schoeman, I van Zyl, Odendaal
Cons: Boshoff 3
Pens: Boshoff 2
Yellow card: Tim Agaba (Blue Bulls, 22 - cynical play, not retreating)
Sharks: 15 Garth April, 14 Jacobus van Wyk, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Sibusiso Nkosi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Ruan Botha (captain), 4 Tyler Paul, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Replacements: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Jean Droste, 20 Jacques Vermeulen, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 Tristan Blewett, 23 Odwa Ndungane.
Blue Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Burger Odendaal (captain), 12 John Jackson, 11 Johnny Kotze, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Nic de Jager, 7 Tim Agaba, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Aston Fortuin, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Conraad van Vuuren, 2 Edgar Marutlulle, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacement: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Jannes Kirsten, 19 Jano Venter, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Tony Jantjies, 22 Duncan Matthews, 23 John-Roy Jenkinson.
Referee: Quinton Immelman
Assistant referees: Stuart Berry, Cwengile Jadezweni
TMO: Christie du Preez
Photo: Wayne Seagreen