The Chiefs scored two late tries to beat the Sharks 29-23 in a thriller at Waikato Stadium, Hamilton.
The Chiefs survived an 18-phase, three-minute assault by the Sharks to keep their Super Rugby season alive.
Brad Weber grabbed a brace, including what turned out to be the match-winning try, 10 minutes from time.
Weber’s score was the Chiefs‘ second in two minutes after Anton Lienert-Brown crossed to put the New Zealand side a point behind the South Africans.
Momentum swung like a pendulum as both sides enjoyed periods of sustained possession and defending.
The hosts controlled most of the first half, the Sharks, the second.
Chiefs Head Coach Colin Cooper will be proud of his side’s courage, they defended wave after wave of attacks throughout the match.
The only time they looked rattled, was when they were down to 14 men.
Had Louis Schreuder opted for another lineout on the Waikato 5m, instead of three points, the result might have been different.
Robert du Preez Snr’s side put together four 10+ phase attacks, as well as multiple seven-plus insurgencies, but was wasteful.
Their basic skills are not good for professional players, but we know how South Africa like them: massive; all brawn and no brains.
Just one score would have won them the contest, instead, they picked up a losing bonus-point, which keeps them in contention for a playoff place.
Super Rugby Video Highlights: Chiefs versus Sharks, Round 13, Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Nathan Harris’ yellow card opened the game as the Sharks scored 10 points while the hooker was in the bin.
The Durban side led by six after a Curwin Bosch penalty, but two tries in quick succession, put the home side back in front.
It was a knockout blow, and the Chiefs continued their nine-year record of not having lost back-to-back Super Rugby matches against a South African franchise.
Slow burner burst into life
Marty McKenzie opened the scoring with his first penalty of the season in the 11th-minute.
The Sharks went past 10 phases twice but had nothing to show for their efforts as handling errors mounted.
A wet pitch because of heavy dew did not help the teams. Mistakes mounted as the players struggled to hold onto the slippery ball.
Momentum shifted when the Chiefs won a scrum-penalty before another knock on gave the hosts possession.
It took a while, but the hosts finally broke the white wall.
Brad Weber finishes off a free-flowing attack.
McKenzie’s break set-up the try, combining with Wainui. The winger drew Fassi and put the scrumhalf away for the game’s first try.
Curwin Bosch, who was excellent, put the Sharks on the board after Luke Jacobson’s indiscretion.
Then some magic from the visitors
Solomon Alaimalo, who already dropped a high-ball, dropped Louis Schreuder’s bomb into the hands of the chasing Sbu Nkosi.
The winger charged forward but was wrapped up.
Before he was tackled, he offloaded to the supporting Hyron Andrews, and the second-rower raced away.
It was the Sharks’ first try of their Australasian tour. Quality!
Bosch levelled, however, Robert du Preez Snr’s side does not help themselves.
They immediately lose any momentum that they have gained by giving away silly penalties or making simple handling mistakes.
Nkosi, the hero a few minutes before became the villain.
He played the ball on the ground right in front of referee Nic Berry – who doesn’t need a second invitation to blow for a penalty.
McKenzie kicked to the corner, and from the lineout, the Chiefs retook the lead when Mitchell Karpik crashed over from close range.
The cleanout was superb, allowing Karpik to pick-and-drive with a clear pathway to the try-line.
Bosch reduced the deficit before the break after another Jacobson infringement.
Sharks struggle with Chiefs kicking game
It wasn’t just Alaimalo who was struggling to hang onto high balls.
The Sharks were dropping grubbers, box-kicks, up-and-unders, you name it, they dropped it.
Jacobson atoned for his previous sins when he won a penalty at the breakdown. However, McKenzie missed from in front.
Somehow, the tourists survived a series of attacks in their 22; they cleared when their pack delivered a penalty.
Another 10-phase attack ended with the same result: knock on.
Lienert-Brown rushed out of the line and smoked Andrews.
The try-scorer lost the ball in contact with men outside him, inside the Chiefs’ 22.
Makazole Mapimpi saved his side when he won a significant penalty at the breakdown.
The Chiefs, inside the Sharks’ 22, had numbers out wide, but the winger had other ideas.
The momentum shifted after Mapimpi’s kick led to Harris getting a yellow card for a cynical infringement inside the red zone.
The Sharks kicked to the corner, and Ruan Botha was awarded the try after the TMO overturned the referee’s on-field call.
Bosch slotted another penalty on 62 minutes to extend the lead to six.
As is always the case, the Sharks failed to see out the contest
They imploded after a poor lineout and restart.
Lienert-Brown, running a good angle, slipped a defender and finished off a 16-phase attack.
It was a lesson to the Sharks who had not scored from one of their four 10+ phase attacks as well as an eight-phases assault at the death.
The visitors’ profligacy killed them
Within a minute of Lienart-Brown’s try, the chiefs had the lead.
The match-winning try was a thing of beauty, coming from Bosch’s long restart.
Alaimalo – finally – collected a high ball. From inside his 22, he put Alex Nankivell through a gap.
Nankivell raced to the halfway line before playing Alaimalo. The fullback returned the pass, and Nankivell sped away to the 22 before offloading to Weber.
The scrumhalf raced away to finish off a sensational score.
That, however, was not the end of the game.
A thrilling end to the game saw the Sharks win a turnover and put together the most prolonged sustained attack of the game.
But once again, they could not deliver the knock-out blow.
Final Score: Chiefs 29 (17) Sharks 23 (13)
Tries – Weber (2), Karpik, Lienert-Brown
Pen – M. McKenzie
Con – M. McKenzie (3)
Cards – Harris (Yellow, 56′)
Tries – Andrews, Botha
Pen – Bosch (3)
Con – Bosch (2)
Referee: Nic Berry
Assistant Ref 1: Paul Williams
Assistant Ref 2: Brendon Pickerill
TMO: Aaron Paterson
15 Solomon Alaimalo, 14 Sean Wainui, 13 Tumua Manu, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Marty McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber (captain), 8 Luke Jacobson, 7 Mitchell Karpik, 6 Jesse Parete, 5 Mitchell Brown, 4 Tyler Ardron, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Atu Moli.
Replacements: 16 Liam Polwart, 17 Ryan Coxon, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Taleni Seu, 20 Pita Gus Sowakula, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Shaun Stevenson, 23 Alex Nankivell.
15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Sibusiso Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Louis Schreuder (captain), 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Jacques Vermeulen, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Hyron Andrews, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Replacements: 16 Fezokhule Mbatha, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Tyler Paul, 20 Luke Stringer, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Robert du Preez, 23 Kobus van Wyk.