The Sharks booked a place in the 2016 Super Rugby play offs by beating the Sunwolves 40-29 at Kings Park in Durban.
The result knocks the Bulls out of contention for the play offs as they are on 37 points and this result moves the Sharks up to 43 so the Bulls cannot catch them in the standings.
The Sharks have therefore qualified as the South African Group Wild Card team in 8th place and next week will face the team that finishes first in the standings.
The Sharks will either travel to Johannesburg to play SA Group winner the Lions or they will travel to New Zealand to play the Australasian Group winner depending on who finishes the regular season higher.
Wherever the Sharks do play they will have to take a massive step up as in this match they failed to earn the bonus point and conceded four tries at home to the lowest ranked team and next week will be playing away against the highest ranked team.
The Sharks will have to wait until the final match on Saturday to find out who and where they will be playing next week in the Quarter-finals.
The Durban side, who led 21-19 at halftime, had to win the match to ensure they finish above the Bulls to make it into this year’s playoffs.
They scored six tries in a rather topsy-turvy match against the Japanese outfit, with prop Coenie Oosthuizen, wing Lwazi Mvovo, midfielders JP Pietersen and André Esterhuizen and replacement fullback Curwin Bosch crossing the Sunwolves’ tryline.
Flyhalf Garth April also scored a wonderful individual try and slotted five conversions from the kicking tee.
The Sunwolves, who fought until the end, scored four tries of their own through scrumhalf Kaito Shigeno and hooker Takeshi Kizu, while centre Mifiposeti Paea scored a brace. Flyhalf Yu Tamura added three conversions and a penalty.
The Sharks started their last home game of the season brilliantly when they took a 14-0 lead in the eighth minute after tries from Oosthuizen and fellow Springbok Mvovo.
The Sunwolves, though, hit back in the 15th minute when Shigeno ran straight through the Sharks’ defence after a nifty lineout move by the visitors’ forwards. But the Sharks scored their third try six minutes later when a breakout from their own half saw veteran wing Pietersen crash over in his last home match for the Durban outfit.
However, the Sunwolves scored two tries before halftime to make it a two-point game after Paea and Lemalu powered over the line.
The Sharks hit back two minutes after the break to calm some of the nerves around the stadium. Esterhuizen rounded off a great long-range try to give the Durban side a bit of breathing space.
The Sharks then made the game safe in the last 10 minutes when April started and then finished a try with great anticipation and a side step that left the Sunwolves defenders grabbing air. The Sharks No 10 then set up replacement fullback Bosch’s try with a lovely chip over the top.
But the Sunwolves had the last say in the match when Paea burst through the Sharks’ defence after the hooter to deny the home side a bonus-point win.
Final Score Sharks 40 (21) Sunwolves 29 (19)
Tries – C.Oosthuizen, L.Mvovo, JP Pietersen, A.Esterhuizen, G.April, C.Bosch
Con – G.April 5
Tries – K.Shigeno, M.Paea 2 , F.Lemalu
Pen – Y.Tamura
Con – Y.Tamura 3
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant Ref 1:Cwengile Jadezweni
Assistant Ref 2:Archie Sehlako
TMO : Marius Jonker
15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 JP Pietersen (c), 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Garth April, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Tera Mtembu, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Thomas du Toit
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Stefan Lewies, 20 Jean Deysel, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 Curwin Bosch, 23 Heimar Williams
15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Hajime Yamashita, 13 Derek Carpenter, 12 Mifiposeti Paea, 11 Yasutaka Sasakura, 10 Yu Tamura (c), 9 Kaito Shigeno, 8 Edward Quirk, 7 Taiyo Ando, 6 Liaki Moli, 5 Faatiga Lemalu, 4 Hitoshi Ono, 3 Shinnosuke Kakinaga, 2 Takeshi Kizu, 1 Keita Inagaki
Replacements: 16 Futoshi Mori, 17 Masataka Mikami, 18 Takuma Asahara, 19 Naohiro Kotaki, 20 Yoshiya Hosoda, 21 Yuki Yatomi, 22 Ryohei Yamanaka, 23 Kentaro Kodama.