The Sharks may have finished the season as the competition’s top team, as doubt remains over the future of the tournament.
The Sharks beat the Stormers 24-14 in a brutal contest at Kings Park, a game that finished with two tries each.
The point of difference was the boot of Sharks flyhalf Curwin Bosch, who finished with 14 points – a conversion, three penalties and a crucial drop-goal.
For the Stormers – and the Springboks, if there are to be game later in the year – there will be concern over the injuries to scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies (who reportedly suffered an ankle fracture and did not return after the half-time break) and prop Steven Kitshoff (who left the field in the second half with a pectoral injury).
The Sharks won the aerial game, while the breakdown was a contest of extreme brutality.
For the most part, the set pieces were a real arm-wrestle, although the Sharks started getting the better of the scrums in the second half – winning a crucial scrum penalty late in the game.
The game got underway in the worst possible fashion – Stormers flank Johan du Toit being yellow-carded for tackling Sharks scrumhalf Louis Schreuder in their air.
Schreuder left the field on a mobile stretcher after being knocked unconscious, while Du Toit was sent to spend 10 minutes on the naughty chair – but not before some vigorous debate between referee: AJ Jacobs and his TMO, Willie Vos, whether it should be a red card or yellow.
They decided for yellow because Schreuder landed on his back and not his head/neck area.
The first real scoring opportunity came in the 17th minutes – Thomas du Toit winning a breakdown penalty for his team. Curwin Bosch was wide to the right with his kick, from 40 metres out.
It was Sharks fullback Aphelele Fassi that eventually broke the deadlock in the 26th minute – a sweetly-time pass from Bosch that set him up to cut the line and stroll over. Bosch added the conversion – 7-0.
The Stormers hit back straight from the restart – Juarno Augustus breaking the line, offloaded to Dillyn Leyds, who in turn sent Herschel Jantjies over for the try. Damien Willemse – who moved back to flyhalf after Jean-Luc du Plessis left the field injured midway through the half – slotted the conversion to level it up at 7-all.
Just past the half-hour mark, Ruhan Nel was caught offside near the Stormers 10-metre line. Bosch, from just over 40 metres on the angle, again pushed his kick wide to the right.
Right on the stroke of half-time, Bosch slotted a drop-goal to give the hosts a 10-7 lead at the break.
Ten minutes into the second half Bosch slotted a penalty, after a couple of penalties and driving mauls inside the Stormers 22 – making it 13-7.
Just past the hour mark, the Stormers scored their second try – a well-timed pass by Willemse putting Juarno Augustus into space, while in turn off-loaded to Paul de Wet, who scored. Willemse’s conversion gave the Stormers the lead for the first time – 14-13.
With just on 15 minutes remaining, Bosch – from about 55 metres on the angle – slotted a crucial penalty to regain the lead – 16-14.
That became 19-14 with five minutes left on the clock – Bosch slotting the kick, after the Sharks won a crucial scrum penalty.
The game was ended as a contest when the Sharks won a scrum turnover minutes later and the ball was quickly swung to the left, where Makazole Mapimpi ghosted past the cover defence. Bosch’s conversion attempt drifted wide, but it did not matter – the home team won 24-14.
Man of the match: For the Stormers Dillyn Leyds carried well, while Johan du Toit and Ernst van Rhyn produced big shifts up front. The best player for the visitors was No.8 Juarno Augustus – with his powerful charges and some sublime offloads, including his important role in the Paul de Wet try. The pace and guile of Aphelele Fassi, the skills and pace of Lukhanyo Am and Makazole Mapimpi, to go with the power of Andre Esterhuizen. Up front you had the workrate of James Venter, Kerron van Vuuren and Henco Venter – the latter a second-half replacement. The Sharks’ most influential player was, without doubt, flyhalf Curwin Bosch. Although he missed a few early kicks at goal, he slotted the ones that mattered and also produced a tactical masterclass. Bosch wins our award.
For the Sharks:
Tries: Fassi, Mapimpi
Pens: Bosch 3
For the Stormers:
Tries: Jantjies, De Wet
Cons: Willemse 2
Yellow card: Johan du Toit (Stormers, 1 – foul play, tackled player in the air)
15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Sibusiso Nkosi, 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
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Le Roux Roets, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Sanele Nohamba, 22 Jeremy Ward, 23 Madosh Tambwe
15 Damian Willemse, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11
Seabelo Senatla, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Juarno
Augustus, 7 Johan du Toit, 6 Ernst van Rhyn, 5 John Schickerling, 4
Salmaan Moerat, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: 16 Chad Solomon, 17 Kwenzo Blose, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Cobus Wiese, 20 Jaco Coetzee, 21 Paul de Wet, 22 Rikus Pretorius, 23 Sergeal Petersen.
Referee: AJ Jacobs (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Egon Seconds (South Africa), Divan Uys (South Africa)
TMO: Willie Vos (South Africa)