Bulls replacement Tian Schoeman kicked a 79th-minute penalty to salvage a 16-16 draw against the Sharks at Loftus on Friday night, with Joe Pietersen missing a simple last ditch goal that should have handed the visitors the win.
In an incredibly dramatic finish to the match, Schoeman first drew the scores level to provide the Bulls with a share of the spoils, but there would be one last golden opportunity for the Sharks.
Marcell Coetzee brilliantly won a penalty at the breakdown, leaving Pietersen with a regulation penalty attempt from virtually in front of the posts, but he almost inexplicably sprayed the kick wide.
The visitors will undoubtedly rue that missed opportunity, but a draw was perhaps a fair result based on the balance of play in a scrappy encounter where momentum swayed one way and then another.
The Sharks came into the clash generally regarded as favourites after making an unbeaten start to the season, but they failed to find any rhythm to their play in the opening stanza. However, they minimised their mistakes after the break, and did enough to scrape their way back into contention.
It’s the Bulls that will be most pleased with the end result though. There has been a sense during the early stages of this season that some pundits have already begun to write the Bulls off after an up and down start to their season, but they came into Friday night’s game clearly with a point to prove.
With heavy rain having fallen at the start of the clash, conditions were difficult for handling, and there were a number of errors that blighted proceedings in the opening exchanges.
However, it was the Bulls who adapted best, and were fully deserving of a 6-3 lead after the opening quarter, with Francois Brummer slotting two penalties to the solitary one from opposite number Joe Pietersen.
In the context of the clash, a massive moment came in the 33rd minute when Brummer got on the outside of centre André Esterhuizen and managed to put fullback Warrick Gelant for a try that took the hosts out into a 10-point lead.
Importantly for the Sharks, Pietersen superbly slotted a long-distance penalty on the stroke of half-time to bring the visitors back within striking distance, but it was the Bulls who would have gone into the break feeling deservedly chuffed with their first-half efforts.
However, it would be the Sharks who crucially struck first in the second half, with Willie le Roux producing a typical moment of magic as he chipped ahead and then gathered the ball to score, with Pietersen’s conversion suddenly bringing the scores level.
It signified a considerable momentum shift and in the 55th minute Pietersen kicked the Sharks into the lead for the first time as he slotted his third penalty.
However, in an epic finish to the clash, Schoeman showed superb composure to slot a long-distance penalty, while Pietersen failed to do the same when he had one final chance to hand the Durbanites a win.
BULLS – 16
Tries: Warrick Gelant (32)
Penalties: Francois Brummer (8), Tiaan Schoeman (79)
Drops: Francois Brummer (18)
Cons: Francois Brummer (33)
SHARKS – 16
Tries: Willie Le Roux (50)
Penalties: Joe Pietersen(12,40,54)
Cons: Joe Pietersen (51)
Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Jamba Ulengo, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Trevor Nyakane
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Hencus van Wyk, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 Nic de Jager, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Jesse Kriel
Sharks: 15 Willie Le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Joe Pietersen, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Philip van der Walt, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Tendai Mtawarira (c)
Replacements: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Hyron Andrews, 20 Keegan Daniel, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Garth April, 23 Odwa Ndungane
Date: Friday, March 18
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Referee: Glen Jackson
Assistant Referees: Stuart Berry, Rasta Rasivhenge
TMO: Willie Vos