Dewaldt Duvenage’s late try helped Western Province keep alive their Currie Cup semi-final aspirations with a 15-10 victory over the Sharks in Durban.
Allister Coetzee’s men recovered from a slow start to dominate the second half but a tie looked the most likely outcome heading into the closing stages at Kings Park.
Jean Deysel had put the hosts in front with Danie Poolman for Province ensuring the scores were level at the break.
Duvenage and Frederic Michalak then exchanged penalties but a loose kick from the Frenchman allowed the scrumhalf to pounce with two minutes remaining in the encounter.
The win moved Province into fourth place on the log, while the Sharks picked up a bonus point to stay second.
Their coach John Plumtree raised several eyebrows before the kick-off with some late tactical changes which included Deysel unusually playing at lock with Anton Bresler dropping to the bench.
The Sharks boss also left Michalak amongst his substitutes with Meyer Bosman moving to flyhalf and Adrian Jacobs coming in at centre, while Marcell Coetzee came in to fill Deysel’s place on the flank.
All the early signs indicated it was a masterstroke from the coach as his side dominated play early on before opening the scoring in the 10th minute.
It came from a try but only after the hosts opted to set up a lineout with a penalty and, after winning the throw, the ball was spread to the left where Deysel picked up and drove over for a fourth Currie Cup score — Bosman adding the conversion.
Just before the 20 minute mark, Lionel Cronje had a chance to put the visitors on the board when Coetzee was blown for going in illegally at a ruck but the kicked swirled wide.
The Province number 10 then missed another penalty moments later, before his captain Tiaan Liebenburg opted for the line-out with the next penalty.
Again, it turned out to be a good call as they then took the ball through the phases before spreading wide to the right where Poolman managed to dance his way through three defenders.
Cronje hit the mark this time to draw the scores level. However, he missed a third kick three minutes before the break, but would have felt a little better heading into half-time when Bosman returned the favour on the whistle to leave the teams deadlocked.
After the restart, the game began to open up with both defences holding out, although Province seemed more likely to score with Siya Kolisi and JJ Engelbrecht making threatening bursts.
With the game reaching the hour mark, the visitors finally had something to show for their efforts when Duvenage’s penalty managed to creep over after Bresler failed to roll away.
The twists continued 10 minutes from the end when Michalak evened things up after an off-side call.
The Frenchman’s attempted kick-ahead two minutes from the end did not find a way through allowing Duvenage to pick up the pieces and slide his way over for the winning score. — Sapa