Highlanders pull off shock Sharks victory in Durban

The Highlanders pulled off one of the shock of the Super Rugby season when
they comfortably beat the Sharks 18-34 with a bonus point in Durban.

The Highlanders outscored Super Rugby leaders the Sharks by four tries to none
as all of the Sharks points came from penalty kicks.

The loss for the Sharks is their second in nine matches and their first at home this season and is a significant blow as Director of Rugby Jake White has spoken all week in the run up to the match about how important a win would be for them ahead of their tour which starts next week in Melbourne.

The result moves the Highlanders from ninth place overall to fifth place and from last place in the New Zealand Super Rugby Conference to second place.

The result is also a boost for New Zealand rugby as Highlanders follow the Crusaders and have become the second team to cross the Indian Ocean and win in South Africa while the South African teams remain winless in New Zealand and Australia.

Richard Buckman, Aaron Smith and Shane Christie all scored tries in the opening
40 minutes, before Malakai Fekitoa’s superb solo score wrapped up the win for
the Highlanders.

Tim Swiel kicked all the points for the Sharks, who stayed top of the overall
standings despite the loss.

The hosts were dealt a blow before kick-off when captain Bismarck du Plessis
and Jean Deysel were ruled out through injury with Kyle Cooper and Ettienne
Oosthuizen drafted in.

The Highlanders began well by taking the lead inside three minutes when the
home side were penalised at the scrum, allowing Lima Sopoaga to open the scoring
with a penalty.

From the restart, Aaron Smith knocked on allowing the Sharks their first attack,
and when the ball was spread to the left, Lwazi Mvovo thought he had scored
the opening try, only for television official Shaun Veldsman to rule that there
had been an obstruction.

However, advantage was being played for a breakdown infringement and Tim Swiel
levelled the score in the seventh minute with a penalty.

The rookie number 10 missed his second kick at goal from wide on the right
when Patrick Osborne erred, but made amends by putting his side in front after
14 minutes when Nasi Manu was caught entering the ruck at the side.

The Highlanders, though, grabbed the opening try after 16 minutes when Buckman
siezed Shaun Treeby’s superb grubber kick which opened the home defence on the
right.

Another penalty straight after the restart, this time for off-side against
the New Zealanders, allowed Swiel to cut the gap to one, although further relentless
pressure cut open the Sharks defence for a second time after 27 minutes as Aaron
Smith went in under the posts.

And after Swiel squandered another penalty, the competition leaders were shocked
when Christie was on the end of a huge maul from the visitors leaving the home
crowd dumbstruck at 24-9 after only 34 minutes.

Swiel found his range with a tough kick for the Sharks after the hooter leaving
the deficit at 12 at half time.

Jake White’s men needed a big second half and they got the perfect start with
Swiel landing three more points after Ben Smith failed to roll away.

Things got better for them when Joseph Wheeler received a yellow card for playing
the man in the air at an attacking line-out and Swiel cut the gap to just six
points.

The Durban men failed to capitalise on their man advantage and the Highlanders
took the lead back to nine points with 14 minutes to play through another Sopoaga
penalty.

Fekitoa then scored the try of the game when he collected the ball on the halfway
mark and weaved his way through a host of Sharks players, before touching down
close to the post to seal the bonus-point point try and with it, the win.

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