Sharks to meet Bulls in Currie Cup final
The Sharks, like they did last year, will have to march to Pretoria for a shot at Currie Cup glory against the Blue Bulls next weekend.
The KZN team secured their passage to the final with a hard fought 28-24 win over plucky Griquas at Kings Park on Saturday.
The home team took a while to get going and when they did called on their superior set pieces to get the job done.
Their scrum, line-out and resultant drives gave them traction after initially struggling to get a foothold in the game.
Captain Phepsi Buthelezi hustled and bustled, Henco Venter towered when he needed to, while Kerron van Vuuren proved ever ready to pounce.
At the back Marius Louw and Werner Kok brought a hard, uncompromising edge, while Curwin Bosch regularly raised the flags.
Bosch and Louw however would have given coach Sean Everitt a few anxious moments in the final quarter.
Bosch was timed out before he could complete a penalty kick and though the ball sailed handsomely between the uprights referee Marius van der Westhuizen ordered a scrum to Griquas.
With 11 minutes to go Louw was yellow carded when he conceded a cynical penalty in the red zone.
The Sharks however kept their composure in the closing minutes.
Earlier it took the hosts a while to firm their grip on the game.
They had little by way of rhythm and continuity in the first half, while a slew of penalties also served to undermine their efforts.
Visiting flyhalf George Whitehead, the leading points scorer in this season's Currie Cup before kickoff, missed the chance to level the scores with a penalty in the ninth minute but his side by then was growing in confidence.
The Sharks kept conceding needless penalties and Whitehead obliged off the tee four minutes after his failed attempt.
Poor discipline permeated the Sharks' ranks and if it wasn't a dangerous clean out at the ruck, playing an opponent in the air at the line-out, a player who is palpably in front of his kicking teammate would seek to play the ball.
To be fair, the visitors showed greater urgency and their tactics which were largely focused around playing in the right areas, also paid off.
On that score scrumhalf Stefan Ungerer, perhaps hoping to catch the eye of the Bok selectors, box kicked with alacrity as Griquas sought to play to one of their strengths.
It helped present them decent field position but poor execution let them down when opportunity beckoned.
By the quarter mark however, Whitehead had added a second penalty to hand the visitors the lead for the first time in the game and he added another in the 26th minute when the Sharks were penalised for holding on in the ruck.
At that point, Griquas who boast a set of wins over Western Province this season, had given the hosts much to ponder.
The Sharks had to find ways to play to their strengths and when they were awarded a penalty with the half-hour mark looming, they opted to kick for the corner flag.
They profited richly from the ensuing line-out drive as hooker Kerron van Vuuren crashed over to score.
Griquas were perhaps unfortunate to have an Ashlon Davids effort disallowed and their misery was compounded when Sharks centre Marius Louw ran through a feeble Whitehead tackle which paved his way to the try line.
Bosch converted to hand the Sharks a somewhat unexpected 17-9 halftime lead.
Sharks – Tries: Kerron van Vuuren (2), Marius Louw. Conversions: Curwin Bosch (2). Penalties: Bosch (3).
Griquas – Tries: Adre Smith, Johan Momsen. Conversion: George Whitehead. Penalties: Whitehead (4).