The South Africans romped to a 17-38 victory over the Sunwolves at the Singapore National Stadium and stay in the hunt for a wildcard place, earning a bonus-point along the way after three late scores.
Lwazi Mvovo scored a stunning hat-trick and Sibusiso Nkosi grabbed a brace – his first tries in Super Rugby. Ruan Botha was the other Sharks try-scorer, in the six tries to two, win.
The game was in the balance with six minutes to play before Shota Emi dropped a simple cross-kick and handed the Durbanites a chance to see out the match.
Jumpei Ogura kicked a 64th-minute penalty to bring his side to within four points at 17-21.
However, Emi’s error set in motion five minutes of madness, which saw the visitors cross the whitewash three times, as they ran rampant, claiming the win.
The two teams had only met once previously, last year when the Sharks won 40-29 at Kings Park.
The Sunwolves are still finding their way in Super Rugby, while the Durban side, is trying to find consistency after too many Jekyll and Hyde performances.
Mvovo scored two of his three tries in the final moments of the match, but he got his team off to the perfect start, scoring in the third minute.
The fullback finished off a move that started inside his side’s 22. Garth April made the initial break down the sideline.
He sent the ball wide, the Sharks recycled at the breakdown, switched the play and Mvovo scored in the corner. April added the extras and his side led 7-0.
If Robert du Preez’s men thought this would be a walk-over, they were mistaken. The Japanese franchise did not buckle, in fact, they grew and had the better of a scrappy opening quarter.
On 19 minutes, the Sunwolves barged into the Sharks’ 22. Ryohei Yamanaka was tackled short, they cleaned out the ruck and went wide.
Fumiaki Tanaka, who was superb, popped to Takeshi Hino, on for Shota Horie, crashed through Ruan Botha. The referee consulted the TMO, but it is an easy score. Yu Tamuralevelledd the scores.
But, the visitors hit back immediately. The Sharks won a scrum penalty, in a good kicking position, but they opted for touch. They secured the ball, set up a rolling maul, and Botha dotted down.
April’s second conversion regained his team’s early seven-point lead. With five minutes remaining in the first-half, Nkosi scored his first Super Rugby try.
Tanaka took a penalty quickly, passed to Shuhei Matsuhashi, but he dropped the ball. Lukhanyo Am – with another outstanding centre display – gathered the bouncing ball and offloaded to the winger.
The 20-year-old shrugged off a defender and ran away, to score under the sticks. April made it a 14-point lead for his team at the break.
The opening exchanges after half-time were slowed by injuries and handling errors. The battle of the breakdown was getting intense as both teams looked to dominate the early stages.
Twelve minutes in, the home team struck, scoring a wonder try through Matsuhashi.
What a great run by the flanker. He took the ball from his scrumhalf, on the angle, beat Lourens Adriaanse and April, with a deceptive turn of pace.
Tamura brought the game to within a goal. By now, both teams were emptying the bench. Jumpei Ogura reduced the deficit to four after the Sharks were penalised at the breakdown.
William Britz was outstanding in both the loose and tight phases, carrying with purpose and solid on defence. He injured his ankle in a tackle and was soon off.
This started the incredible denouement; first, Emi lost Ogura’s cross-kick forward. The Sharks took control, went through the phases and Mvovo scored his second.
He collected Etienne Oosthuizen’s back-door offload and barged through two defenders to give his side the game. The Sunwolves still had their chances.
They went down the field, playing fast and loose; instead, they botched an overlap and the South Africans scored after Am’s interception and pass to Nkosi.
This broke the Sunwolves’ spirit, as they capitulated under the tourists’ strong finish.
Mvovo wrapped things up with his third try after the hooter, collecting Jean-Luc du Preez’s offload, racing away and diving over, in the corner to cap a stunning end to the match.
Final score: Sunwolves 17 (7) Sharks 38 (21)
Tries – Hino, Matsuhashi
Pen – Ogura
Con – Tamura (2)
Tries – Mvovo (3), Botha, Nkosi (2)
Con – April (3), Janse van Rensburg
Referee: Rohan Hoffmann
Assistant Ref 1: Aki Aso
Assistant Ref 2: Tasuku Kawahara
TMO: Minoru Fuji
15 Kotaro Matsushima, 14 Shota Emi, 13 Ryohei Yamanaka, 12 Harumichi Tatekawa, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Willem Britz, 7 Shuhei Matsuhashi, 6 Yoshitaka Tokunaga, 5 Noahiro Kotaki, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Yasuo Yamaji, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Keita Inagaki.
Replacements: 16 Takeshi Hino, 17 Masataka Mikami, 18 Takuma Asahara, 19 Hitoshi Ono, 20 Rahboni Warren Vosayaco, 21 Keisuka Uchidam 22 Jumpei Ogura, 23 Yasutaka Sasakura.
15 Lwazi Mvovo, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Johan Deysel, 11 Sibusiso Nkosi, 10 Garth April, 9 Cobus Reinach, 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.
Replacement: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Tendai Mtawarira, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Etienne Oosthuizen, 20 Lubabalo Mtembu, 21 Rowan Gouws, 22 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 23 Sibusiso Sithole