The Sharks held on to secure a crucial 33-25 win over the Jaguares in Buenos Aires on Saturday.
In light of the Sharks’ dour 9-9 draw against the Rebels last weekend, this was a massive result for the Durban-based side, and one that spoke volumes for the character of the side.
Coming into this clash, the Lions had extended their lead at the top of the Africa 2 conference to 13 points, but the Sharks appeared to be unburdened as they produced a composed and clinical performance at a hostile venue.
The Sharks made the perfect start to proceedings when stand-in captain Philip van der Walt scored early on, but from thereon it would be a half where momentum ebbed one way and then the next.
Nicolas Sanchez and Curwin Bosch traded two penalties each as matters remained relatively even during the opening stanza, but there then seemed to be an opening for the hosts when Sharks scrumhalf Michael Claassens was sent to the sin bin for a cynical offence.
Joaquin Tuculet scored soon after as the Jaguares made the most of their one-man advantage, while Matias Orlando went over under the posts in the 34th minute to suddenly propel the Argentine side into a 20-13 lead.
It appeared as if it would be a handy advantage that they’d take into the break, but the Sharks weren’t done just yet as young fullback Rhyno Smith produced a beautiful break that ultimately ended in a try for Etienne Oosthuizen.
That score left the scores deadlocked at 20-20 at the break, but the Sharks would have been the far happier of the two sides considering they had played 10 minutes with 14 men.
The visitor’s confidence would have only grown when Coenie Oosthuizen and Thomas du Toit combined for the latter to dive over next to the posts in the 53rd minute, and from there it was really the Sharks’ game to close out.
That was particularly the case when Bosch opened up a 10-point buffer with his third penalty just after the hour mark, but the Jaguares hit back almost straight from the restart as Bautista Ezcurra was put away to score in the corner.
It left the Sharks hanging onto a five-point lead heading into the final 10 minutes, but they maintained their composure at the death, with Bosch slotting an 81st minute penalty to secure an impressive win.
Tries: Joaquin Tuculet, Matias Orlando, Bautista Ezcurra
Conversions: Nicolas Sanchez (2)
Penalties: Sanchez (2)
Tries: Philip van der Walt, Etienne Oosthuizen, Thomas du Toit
Conversions: Curwin Bosch (3)
Penalties: Bosch (4)
Jaguares: 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Ramiro Moyano, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jerónimo De La Fuente, 11 Bautista Ezcurra, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Felipe Ezcurra, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Rodrigo Baez, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Marcos Kremer, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustín Creevy, 1 Lucas Noguera Paz
Replacements: 16 Roberto Tejerizo, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Enrique Pieretto Heilan, 19 Ignacio Larrague, 20 Benjamin Macome, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Juan Martin Hernandez, 23 Matias Moroni
Sharks: 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Jeremy Ward, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Philip van der Walt (c), 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Ruan Botha, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Thomas du Toit
Replacements: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Etienne Oosthuizen, 20 Tera Mtembu, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 23 Johan Deysel
Date: Saturday, April 29
Venue: Vélez Sarsfield
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Jaco van Heerden (South Africa), Damian Schneider (Argentina)
TMO: Santiago Borsani (Argentina)