Sharks edge Highlanders and book Semi-final

The Sharks booked a place in the 2014 Super Rugby Semi-finals against the Crusaders when they beat the Highlanders 31-27 at Kings Park in Durban.

The Sharks had to chase the game for much of the match and the Highlanders led 13-17 at half time.

Both teams scored three tries each and the difference came down to kicks with Frans Steyn kicking four penalties and two conversions while Lima Sopoaga kicked two penalties and three conversions.

“I’m just proud of our character … I thought we did ourselves justice
tonight,” said Highlanders fullback Ben Smith after the match.

Two tries in three minutes by Bismarck du Plessis and Tonderai Chavhanga helped
the Sharks book their Super Rugby semi-final ticket.

The pair crossed in the 53rd and 56th minutes after their side had been stunned
by a fine comeback from the visitors, which saw them lead 17-14 by half time
at Kings Park.

Marcell Coetzee also scored for the Sharks, while Frans Steyn kicked 16 points
in another strong display at flyhalf with Jake White’s men holding on to book
a last four meeting against the Crusaders in Christchurch next week.

They started the game well enough with a penalty inside the opening 120 seconds
when lock Jarrad Hoeata was caught off-side at a ruck, allowing Steyn to kick
the first points.

The hosts had the first try after 14 minutes when they won an attacking line-out
and drove forward powerfully allowing Coetzee to carry over from the driving

Shortly after Jannie du Plessis had a try disallowed for a double movement
as the Sharks took total control of the setpiece.

But the visitors hung in there and finally had their first points after 26
minutes when Lima Sopoaga landed a long-range penalty after Du Plessis was called
for off-side by referee Steve Walsh.

Steyn popped over another penalty when flanker Shane Christie was caught for
some illegal play at the ruck, but then Malakai Fekitoa scored the game’s outstanding
try when he pierced through a hole on the halfway line as he latched onto Ben
Smith’s pass and escaped three tackles to score on the right hand side of the

Steyn struck the post with a penalty attempt three minutes from the break,
before another seething Highlanders attack ended when All Blacks centre Fekitoa
failed to release.

However, the home crowd was stunned into silence moments after the half-time
siren when Kane Hames scored on the left following an attack that started in
his side’s own 22 metre area with Nasi Manu and Hoeata setting the big prop
on his way.

That score put the Highlanders into a four point lead at the break, a lead
that was extended to seven when Sopoaga landed another penalty after Willem
Alberts entered a ruck from the side.

Moments before that Steyn had the opportunity to cut the gap to one, but the
Sharks chose an attacking line-out that came to nothing.

The game turned on its head during a three-minute spell thereafter when skipper
Bismarck and Chavhanga both crossed, the former after the Highlanders’ set-piece
was again torn to shreds and the latter sprinting over on the left for his first
score of the season.

The plucky Dunedin side refused to give in though, and they retook the lead
through another blistering attacking move as Patrick Osbourne brilliantly offloaded
to Phil Burleigh to score.

Sopoaga put the Highlanders in front again, before the Sharks emphatically
turned over a scrum on the visitors’ goal-line moments after Jean Deysel knocked
on, allowing Steyn to make it 28-27.

With the returning Patrick Lambie on the field after nearly four months out
injured, the Sharks won another penalty right in front of the posts, allowing
Steyn to kick over and seal a very tight victory for the home sid

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