The Bulls edged the Sharks 16-19 in a bruising South African derby at Kings Park, Durban.
Handré Pollard kicked a last-minute penalty as the Bulls won a tight, tense Super Rugby match, taking the Pretoria franchise’s unbeaten record since 2014 against the Sharks to nine.
Pollard kicked 14 points, and Jesse Kriel scored the Bulls‘ only try after Dan du Preez’s score put the hosts 8-6 up, soon after the break.
Schalk Brits and Akker van der Merwe were both red-carded after a punch-up in the 58th-minute.
Rob du Preez and Pollard traded penalties before André Esterhuizen’s try, with nine minutes remaining, levelled the scores.
Du Preez missed the conversion, but it did not matter because Pollard’s late goal would have been enough, anyway.
An error-strewn first half saw the Bulls take a three-point lead into the break courtesy of two Pollard penalties, which cancelled out Robert du Preez’s fifth-minute goal.
The Sharks could also feel aggrieved at having Dan du Preez’s early try chalked off.
The TMO judged that Makazole Mapimpi’s kick had bounced on the sideline before the flanker dotted down.
The replay showed the ball did not touch the whitewash, but Mr Christie du Preez saw something and ruled the five-pointer out.
Robert du Preez was profligate from the tee, missing a penalty and two conversions. Pollard, meanwhile, was faultless.
The 25-year-old Springboks flyhalf kicked four penalties and a conversion, taking his 2019 record to 34 from 38 shots at goal.
His accuracy made the difference, despite the Sharks outscoring Pote Human’s side two tries to one.
Dour opening 40 minutes
It was a stop-start first-half as both teams shed penalties and struggled to keep possession.
The Sharks camped inside the Bulls’ half yet could not turn territory into points. They gave away two scrum-penalties inside the opposition’s 22 releasing the pressure on Human’s side.
Both flyhalves traded penalties inside five minutes after Van der Merwe and Hanro Liebenberg were pinged for hands in the ruck.
Aphelele Fassi gathered Mapimpi’s kick and offloaded to Dan du Preez to score. The try was not awarded.
Fassi was pinning the Bulls back with some superb kicking from fullback. He mixed up-and-unders with long grubbers to keep the men in black on the attack.
Ruan Steenkamp was caught for not rolling away and going off his feet, but Rob du Preez could not negotiate the swirling wind, pushing his kick wide.
Brits combined with Rosco Specman for a rare foray into enemy territory; however, the attack came to nought.
Esterhuizen was growing into the game, breaking Pollard’s tackle only for the Sharks to give away the ball in contact.
Brits sent Lizo Gqoboka through a gap which led to a penalty after the move broke down. Pollard’s kick was good, putting the visitors back in front.
The Sharks were winning the battle at the breakdown, but could not capitalise on their good work. A 10-phase attack on the stroke of halftime stalled because of accidental offsides.
Sharks come out firing but Pollard pegs them back
Whatever Robert du Preez Snr told his charges during the interval, it worked. His team came out with an intensity that they had been lacking.
Divan Rossouw knocked on the kickoff. The Sharks went wide through Lwazi Mvovo before some good carrying and offloading by their props, set up Dan du Preez’s try.
The Sharks got quick ball. Ruben van Heerden shifted the pill his Rob du Preez. The flyhalf, under pressure from Kriel, flipped a pass to Luke Stringer.
The flanker took the ball forward, drew two defenders and floated a pass to Daniel Du Preez, who dived over untouched. The conversion was missed.
Mvovo’s knock on allowed the Bulls an attacking scrum on their host’s 10-metre line. Burger Odendaal went route one and straight though Rob du Preez’s weak tackle.
Odendaal drew Mvovo before offloading to the supporting Kriel. The centre cruised past Fassi and scored under the posts: easy as you like.
Pollard knocked over the conversion to put his side up by five. Some sustained pressure inside the Bulls’ 22 led to Brits and Van der Merwe being sent off for foul play.
Human’s side soaked up the pressure, only conceding three points. Jacques Vermeulen was penalised for collapsing a maul, allowing the visitors to extend their slim lead back to five.
Lukhanyo Am’s break into the opposition’s 22 set up his midfield partner’s match-levelling try. The big ball carriers bashed away at the goal line.
Thomas du Toit, Khutha Mchunu, Kerron van Vuuren and Dan du Preez, twice, went close before Esterhuizen barged through Specman’s tackle from close range.
Rob du Preez could not convert which set up Pollard – kicking at 89% and yet to miss – to break Sharks’ hearts with a penalty from in front after his forwards won a crucial scrum-penalty.
Final Score: Sharks 16 (3) Bulls 19 (6)
Tries – D. Du Preez, Esterhuizen
Pen – R. Du Preez (2)
Cards – Van der Merwe (Red, 57′)
Tries – Kriel
Pen – Pollard (4)
Con – Pollard
Cards – Brits (Red, 57′)
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant Ref 1: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant Ref 2: Brendon Pickerill
TMO: Christie du Preez
15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Lwazi Mvovo, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder (captain), 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Luke Stringer, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Armand van der Merwe, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Kerron van Vuuren, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Khutha Mchunu, 19 Gideon Koegelenberg, 20 Philip van der Walt, 21 Grant Williams, 22 Kobus van Wyk, 23 Curwin Bosch.
15 Divan Rossouw, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Handre Pollard (captain), 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Hanro Liebenberg, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Eli Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Lizo Gqoboka
Replacements: 16 Corniel Els, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Conraad van Vuuren, 19 Jannes Kirsten, 20 Tim Agaba, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Johnny Kotze.