The Sharks thrashed the Highlanders 20-42 with an impressive away performance to start their overseas tour at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin.
It was a clinical victory by the tourists, who scored five tries in a display meshing solid defence and sublime finishing as they took apart the Highlanders to make it two wins from two.
This was a dominant display from the South Africans who continue winning ways in Dunedin.
The victory ended a five-game unbeaten streak for the home team, who were way off the pace in their opening match of the competition following a round one bye.
Makazole Mapimpi and Aphelele Fassi both grabbed a brace in a superb outside backs display.
It was James Venter who opened the scoring as the Sharks ran riot under the roof in Otago.
Curwin Bosch kicked three penalties and four conversions and had a hand in Fassi’s first try for a match-haul of 17 points with another influential turnout at first receiver.
The Highlanders fought back from a 27-point second-half deficit with three tries after the break to bring the score to within 15.
But the visitors turned the screw and put their hosts away at the death thanks to Fassi’s late double.
A stodgy opening half-hour as both sides struggle in the set-pieces and the breakdown
Mitch Hunt, on debut, and Bosch (two) traded penalties as the Sharks led by three inside a penalty-laden opening half-hour.
Thomas du Toit was pinged twice at the first two scrums, while the Sharks dominated the breakdown, winning four penalties of their own.
It only took referee Angus Gardner 23 minutes before he spoke to both captains about the battle at the breakdown.
Each side’s continued infringements made for a stop-start affair.
Both sides lost a lineout, too, in a messy start to the game.
The support to the rucks was slow from both teams, leading to a barrage of penalties which killed each team’s attacking momentum.
Liam Coltman and Kerron van Vuuren struggled with their lineout throwing, each conceding turnovers, once each in good attacking range.
Aaron Mauger’s men struggled with the Sharks rush-defence, squandering several excellent attacking opportunities inside the opposition’s 22.
The game breaks open with three quickfire scores by the Sharks, who take a big lead into the break
The Sharks, after all their defending, put the Landers to the sword, scoring three tries in nine minutes to open up a 24-point halftime lead.
Madosh Tambwe, who almost intercepted Josh Iaone’s floated pass a few minutes earlier, won an aerial dual to set up the tourist’s first try on 31 minutes.
The winger knocked the ball into Van Vuuren’s hands, the hooker put Venter through a gap, and the flanker finished with aplomb.
Enter Mapimpi. The World Cup-winning try-scorer dotted down twice, five minutes later.
Both the winger’s tries also came from turnovers and some superb, slick handling.
Sikhumbuzo Notshe was instrumental in both, winning possession before putting away Aphelele Fassi for the first try.
Tambwe to set-up the second.
Fassi and Tambwe’s angled runs, and well-timed passes, sent Mapimpi into space to score.
Bosch made no mistake with all his conversions as Sean Everitt’s men took a commanding lead into the shed.
The Highlanders came out firing in the second stanza
Coach Aaron Mauger would have read the riot act during halftime, but whatever he said, it had an immediate effect.
His side came out with purpose and a change of tactics, opting to kick from hand and pin the Sharks inside their half.
It worked a treat.
Bosch added a third penalty on 44 minutes, but the hosts hit back from a first-phase attack from a lineout near the opposition’s goal-line.
The ball was won and sent quickly to Dillon Hunt, who crashed over under the posts for his side’s first five-pointer.
Mitch Hunt’s conversion reduced the deficit to 20.
The South Africans struggled to get their hands on the ball and leaked penalties as the Kiwis kept them pinned inside their territory.
Sharks under the pump
More poor handling and turnovers in crucial attacking areas were hurting the home team.
A mistake by Bosch, however, led to a scrum, then scrum-penalty before Am gave away a silly offside.
The Landers took a quick-tap penalty and recycled the ball near the try-line.
Mitchell Hunt’s pin-point crossfield kick was gathered by Nareki, who dotted down to half the scores at 15-30 with 19 minutes remaining.
Everitt’s side was reeling under the weight of pressure, lack of possession and territory.
The new Sharks coach only changed his pack after Nareki’s try, which is unusual in the modern game.
Kayne Hammington’s pass was knocked on by Rob Thompson with the try-line begging, with 11 to play.
Fassi at the double as the Sharks kill off Highlanders comeback
Fassi scored the first of his two late tries, in the 71st-minute, to finish the game as a contest.
The fullback collected Bosch’s dink-grubber after a mistake by the defence, and after a TMO review, the try was awarded.
Michael Collins, on his return, scored in the corner after some smart work by Teariki Ben-Nicholas on the touchline, who flicked a bouncing ball into Collins’ hands.
The sideline conversion attempt was charged down.
There was still time for the visitors, and Fassi, to grab another score.
With the clock ticking down, Fassi handed off Hammington after Thompson’s failed intercept had opened a lane to the try-line.
The fullback dived over in the corner to bring up the forty-burger and cap off a marvellous away win in the Land of the Long White Cloud.
Final Score: Highlanders 20 (3) Sharks 42 (27)
Tries – D. Hunt, Nareki, Collins
Pen – M. Hunt
Con – M. Hunt
Tries – J. Venter, Mapimpi (2), Fassi (2)
Pen – Bosch (3)
Con – Bosch (4)
Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant Ref 1: Paul Williams
Assistant Ref 2: James Doleman
TMO: Chris Hart
15 Josh McKay, 14 Tima Fainga’anuku, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Josh Ioane, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Marino Mikaele Tu’u, 7 James Lentjes (captain), 6 Dillon Hunt, 5 Josh Dickson, 4 Paripari Parkinson, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Ayden Johnstone.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Josh Iosefa-Scott, 19 Jesse Parete, 20 Shannon Frizell, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Michael Collins, 23 Teariki Ben-Nicholas.
15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Lukhanyo Am (captain), 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 James Venter, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche.
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Le Roux Roets, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Sanele Nohamba, 22 Henry Chamberlain, 23 Jeremy Ward