Reece Hodge kicked a last play penalty as the Sharks and Rebels played out a rare tryless draw at Kings Park in Durban after both teams had a man red carded in a forgettable game on Africa’s east coast.
Curwin Bosch’s 78th-minute penalty, moments earlier, had given his team a 9-6 lead with 90 seconds remaining but, the game ended all square: 9-all on the scoreboard and 14-all on the field.
The Sharks had Andre Esterhuizen sent off in the 18th minute for a terrible tackle on Sefa Naivalu.
While Rebels captain Nic Stirzaker was sent off in the 70th minute for a second yellow card, both for cynical play.
This was a game bereft of quality; error-strewn and reminiscent of the Sharks and Reds 6-3 game, all those years ago.
The game started as it would end bookended by Stirzaker’s two yellow cards for deliberate knockdowns.
The first in the fourth minute when the scrumhalf stopped Jeremy Ward from collecting on the sideline.
But, it was the visitors who took the lead in the eighth minute when Hodge kicked a monster 51-metre penalty.
In Durban, being at sea level and in the sub-tropics, the air is heavy with moisture and so the ball does not travel far as it would in other parts of South Africa.
The game changed in the 18th minute when Esterhuizen received his marching orders for a terrible ‘Suplex’ on Naivalu; he picked up the winger above the horizontal and dumped him on his head.
The TMO deemed it a straight Red – and it was.
Somehow, the home team coped without the extra man but, they did go into halftime down by three after Bosch and Hodge traded penalties.
For much of the second half, the sharks had the ball and were camped inside the Rebels half.
Everything that could go wrong did for the home team.
Bosch missed a penalty early on after the break and, on multiple occasions, the Sharks kicked for touch when taking the easy three points, would have been the better option.
James Hanson was sent to the sin-bin for another infringement on the home team’s driving maul.
Just when they thought they had finally scored, the referee’s assistant, Stuart Berry – who else – got involved. Berry told Marius van der Westhuizen to check for a high tackle committed by Raun Botha.
The replay showed that the lock had pulled back a defender in the maul by the neck and the try was overturned; Botha, however, was lucky to stay on the field.
The Sharks did, eventually, opt for a shot at goal and Bosch, tied the game at 6-all in the 64th minute.
Then came the denouement; Stirzaker’s cynical knock down stopped an almost certain try and he was sent off.
The referee checked with the TMO as to whether or not he should award a penalty try but, because there was a defender coming across, he deemed it not worthy of further punishment.
The home team had the better of the possession and the territory in the second half but, they could find the killer blow.
Instead, just when they thought they had found a winner, they gave it away. Bosch kicked a penalty with less than two minutes remaining to give his team a 9-6 lead.
But, while trying to exit their half, in the final minute, they conceded a needless, sloppy penalty in a kickable position, and Hodge did the rest.
Final score: Sharks 9 (3) Rebels 9 (6)
Pen – Bosch (3)
Cards – Esterhuizen (Red, 18th minute)
Pen – Hodge (3)
Cards – Stirzaker 2 (Yellow, 4th minute and 70th minute: red card), Hanson (Yellow, 53rd minute)
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant Ref 1: Egon Seconds
Assistant Ref 2: Stuart Berry
TMO: Marius Jonker
15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Jeremy Ward, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Philip van der Walt, 6 Lubabalo Mtembu (captain), 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Coenraad Oosthuizen, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Mahlatse Ralepelle, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Ruan Botha, 20 Jacques Vermeulen, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 23 Odwa Ndungane.
15 Reece Hodge, 14 Sefa Naivalu, 13 Tom English, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Ben Volavola, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Nic Stirzaker (captain), 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Will Miller, 6 Jake Schatz, 5 Steve Cummins, 4 Culum Retallick, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Siliva Siliva, 1 Fereti Sa’aga.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Tom Moloney, 18 Laurie Weeks, 19 Esei Ha’angana, 20 Hugh Sinclair, 21 Mick Snowden, 22 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 23 Sione Tuipulotu