The Sharks kept their undefeated record against the Jaguares intact with a deserved 25-33 win at Velez Sarsfield in Buenos Aires.
This game was end-to-end, both teams trading blows and never getting too far ahead before the other hit back.
The teams shared six tries but the difference was the kickers’ boots. Curwin Bosch claimed 18 points off the tee to edge the Durban side over the line.
The scores were level at half-time but Thomas du Toit’s try and Bosch’s boot, was enough to keep ahead of Bautista Ezcurra’s own second half score.
The Sharks raced to a 3-10 lead after stand-in captain Philip van der Walt’s opening try, and Bosch’s penalty and conversion.
Nicolás Sánchez kicked a penalty to reduce the visitors’ lead. The game shifted when Michael Claassens was sent to the bin for a cynical knock-down.
The game was see-sawing. While the scrumhalf was off, the Jaguares hit back. The teams traded penalties but Joaquin Tuculet’s try and another three-pointer from Sánchez drew the Argentinians level at 13-13.
The fullback finished a wonderful backline move. Bautista Ezcurra ran a looping run and collected Sánchez’s pass, ghosted through the gap and sent Tuculet over in the corner.
Claassens was back on for long when Matias Orlando scored his side’s second try. He took a pop-pass from Jeronimo De La Fuente and crashed over.
It came from a broken move just under the Sharks posts and the home team led 20-13.
But, the South Africans had a counter-punch of their own. It began with Rhyno Smith’s break from deep inside his half.
The fullback took the ball into the opposition’s 22 and after some quick ball at the breakdown, Etienne Oosthuizen collected, Van der Walt’s pop-pass and scored. Bosch brought the teams level as they headed into the shed.
The Sharks have made 62 tackles to the Jaguares’ 46, and the carries were almost equal but the visitors had missed 19 tackles: could they hang on?
The second half was not as fluid as the first but, it was not without its moments of brilliance.
First, it was Du Toit. The loosehead collected a ball from Coenie Oosthuizen – his front row partner of all people – who drew Matias Moroni and sent ‘The Tank’ away.
Du Toit still had to shrug off Jeronimo De La Fuente’s attempted tackle before scoring. Bosch added the extras, giving Robert du Preez’s men a seven-point lead.
The 19-year-old flyhalf added a third penalty as the game entered the final quarter, and the Sharks led by 10 points.
The Argentinians had time for another try of their own.
Tuculet launched a big up-and-under on Bosch. The flyhalf challenged and lost the aerial contest with the fullback.
The Pumas’ No 15 gathered and, with a touch of class, landed a beautiful backdoor pass to the Ezcurra, who raced away to score. That was spectacular from the outside backs.
The home team had the momentum going into the dying embers of the game. They had opportunities to win it but could not find the last pass.
This gave Bosch one last chance to seal the deal. With his fourth penalty, he pushed the Sharks eight points ahead and denied their hosts a losing bonus-point.
Final score: Jaguares 25 (20) Sharks 33 (20)
Tries – Tuculet, Orlando, Ezcurra
Pen – Sánchez (2)
Con – Sánchez (2)
Tries – Van der Walt, E. Oosthuizen, Du Toit
Pen – Bosch (4)
Con – Bosch (3)
Cards – Claassens (Yellow, 23rd minute)
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant Ref 1: Jaco van Heerden
Assistant Ref 2: Damian Schneider
TMO: Santiago Borsani
15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Ramiro Moyano, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo De La Fuente, 11 Bautista Ezcurra, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Felipe Ezcurra, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Rodrigo Baez, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Marcos Kremer, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustin Creevy (captain), 1 Lucas Noguera.
Replacements: 16 Roberto Tejerizo, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Ignacio Larrague, 20 Benjamin Macome, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Juan Martin Hernández, 23 Matias Moroni.
15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Jeremy Ward, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Philip van der Walt (captain), 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Ruan Botha, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Mahlatse Ralepelle, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Replacements: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Etienne Oosthuizen, 20 Lubabalo Mtembu, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 23 Johan Deysel.