The Southern Kings clinched a historic last-minute 35-32 victory over the Sharks at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth, thanks to Pieter-Steyn de Wet’s last gasp try.
Lionel Cronje scored 20 points, including a full house of three penalties, two conversions, a drop goal and a try. Alshaun Bock scored a double as the Kings came back to beat their illustrious opponents.
This was the PE franchise’s first win in six attempts against Sharks, their first against South African opposition and extends their best run in Super Rugby to three wins on the trot.
They outscored their opponents four tries to two, were better with the ball in hand and had the better of the scrum set-piece, putting in a dominant display. dismantled the Sharks’ core strength at its foundations.
Although both teams did not lose a scrum or lineout, the Kings were superior, dismantling the Sharks’ scrum – one of their core strengths, at its foundations.
After a historic away win in Sydney against the Waratahs, the Kings returned home and thumped the Rebels 44-3. And now this, the sweetest of victories in extraordinary circumstances.
The Kings are one of the teams touted for the chop at the end of the season.
Since the announcement that the Republic would lose two franchises, they have upped their game and started winning, sending out a defiant message to the suits at SANZAAR.
Robert du Preez and his men will wonder how they have lost; twice coming back from eight points, nine points and two, with the clock ticking down.
Garth April kicked two late penalties, as the Sharks fought back from 28-26 down with 11 minutes to play, to lead 28-32, to seemingly, give the visitors the win.
However, De Wet had other ideas. This was a classic Super Rugby game, that see-sawed as the two South African teams battled out a six-try thriller.
Cronje’s try, Rhyno Smith’s yellow card and Bock’s second try, straight from the restart after the break, saw the Kings race to a 25-16 lead, early in the second stanza. Portents of things to come.
The hosts raced to an 8-0 lead after 12 minutes after Bock’s first try and a Cronje penalty. Pat Lambie struck two quick penalties to reduce the deficit.
The Sharks scored the game’s second try when Daniel du Preez charged over from close range after a pick and go. Lambie’s conversion gave the visitors a five-point 8-13 lead.
Cronje, who along with Chris Cloete, have been the Kings’ standout players, in with a shout for international honours, kicked a drop-goal on 33 minutes to cut cut the Sharks’ lead to two.
April, on for Lambie, who left for an HIA and did not return, kicked a penalty to cancel out the drop kick.
However, the final moments of the first-half, combined with the beginning of the second, saw the home team take the lead and extend it.
On 38 minutes, Bock saw a gap, sold a dummy and put his flyhalf away for the game-tying score. Cronje’s conversion made it 18-16 at as the teams entered the shed.
Whatever Deon Davids and his backroom staff told their players, it worked a treat. They came out flying and scored from the kick-off. Bock got his brace and Cronje added the extras.
Louis Schreuder made a break and timed his pass perfectly to Bock, who raced away for his second score of the match
A five-point deficit had become a nine-point lead in the space of three minutes. The Sharks had lost Smith after tackling Cronje high and receiving a yellow before the break.
The Kings had made their numerical advantage count; the visitors were reeling. But, the Sharks hit back with 10 points of their own inside 14 minutes after Ross Geldenhuys was sent to the bin.
April kicked a penalty, Lwazi Mvovo crossed the whitewash, April kicked the conversion. Bang! Bang! Bang! The men in white had retaken the lead, one point, but a lead entering the final quarter.
This has generally led to a Kings’ capitulation, but they did not wilt. Instead, they fought. Cronje’s second penalty of the afternoon made it 28-26.
Then came the incredible denouement. April slotted two penalties before De Wet stole the headlines, and the Kings made history.
Final score: Kings 35 (18) Sharks 32 (16)
Tries – Bock (2), Cronje, De Wet
Pen – Cronje (2)
Con – Cronje (3)
Drop – Cronje
Cards – Geldenhuys (Yellow, 53rd minute)
Tries – D. Du Preez, Mvovo
Pen – Lambie (2), April (4)
Con – Lambie, April
Cards – R. Smith (Yellow, 40th minute)
Referee: Federico Anselmi
Assistant Ref 1: Quinton Immelman
Assistant Ref 2: AJ Jacobs
TMO: Christie du Preez
15 Masixole Banda, 14 Alshaun Bock, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Luzuko Vulindlu, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Lionel Cronje (captain), 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Andisa Ntsila, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 4 Irne Herbst, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Martin Bezuidenhout, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Kurt Haupt, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 19 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 20 Stefan Willemse, 21 Johan Steyn, 22 Pieter-Steyn de Wet, 23 Nicolaas Hanekom.
15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Jacobus van Wyk, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Jeremy Ward, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie (captain), 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Philip van der Walt, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Mahlatse Ralepelle, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Stephan Lewies, 20 Lubabalo Mtembu, 21 Jacobus Reinach, 22 Garth April, 23 Sibusiso Nkosi