Saracens held off a spirited fight back from a Sharks side shaking off pre-season rust to secure a 23-15 victory in London.
The home side scored the only two tries in the first half to take control of the game , but the Sharks hit back with two tries of their own after half-time to get right back into it.
The Sharks made a positive start, rumbling their way into Saracens territory with a series of powerful carries until Jacques Burger was penalised at the breakdown, giving Tim Swiel a chance to open the scoring.
Burger was in the action at the other end of the pitch soon afterwards when he charged a clearance by Cobus Reinach, but the Sharks escaped by winning a penalty at a defensive scrum on their tryline.
The home side managed to exert some pressure in the scrums against an all-Springbok front row in their first outing of the year, and they got a chance to level the scores when Jannie du Plessis shoved Burger in retaliation but Charlie Hodgson pulled the kick wide.
The Sharks’ scrum woes continued and Hodgson made no mistake with his second attempt at goal before following that up soon afterwards to give his side a 6-3 lead.
The Sharks got some momentum going through a powerful maul, but Swiel’s kick swerved wide of the mark and Saracens were soon on the attack again when Odwa Ndungane took David Strettle out in the air.
Saracens got a maul of their own going which was headed for the line before being pulled down by Etienne Oosthuizen. The young lock was shown a yellow card and the home side took a quick tap, with Strettle catching the Sharks napping as he rushed over in the corner.
Hodgson landed the touchline conversion to give the Premiership side a handy 13-3 advantage, but things went from bad to worse for the visitors who lost another lock almost immediately.
Pieter-Steph du Toit was sent to join his lock partner in the sin bin for a reckless charge and the Sharks were right up against it without a second row.
Both teams visited the opposition 22 before losing the ball, with Bismarck du Plessis stealing it on the ground before they coughed it up themselves with the tryline in sight.
Just moments after getting back to a full 15 the Sharks were struck a big blow when Hodgson intercepted a Swiel pass to canter under the poles and give his side a healthy 20-3 lead at half-time.
A wayward Saracens line-out at the start of the second half gave the Sharks a sniff with Willem Alberts and Jean Deysel making some powerful runs in the Saracens 22 before it was lost forward.
Both teams enjoyed time in the opposition 22 but battled to find the finishing touch as defence prevailed at both ends of the pitch.
Saracens’ South African-born prop Matt Stevens was shown a yellow card for repeated infringements, but held out well while he was off the pitch as the half-time score remained at the hour mark.
The Sharks finally crossed the whitewash when the impressive Andre Esterhuizen straightened well to finish off a movement which featured a turnover from Jacques Botes and a bullocking run from Tera Mthembu.
The visitors had their tails up and followed that up with another try as the ball was spun out to Heimar Williams after another strong maul, and he went over in the corner to bring them right back into the game at 20-15.
The home side hit back soon afterwards with a penalty from Hodgson which gave them a vital eight-point buffer heading into the final ten minutes.
That killed the Sharks’ hopes of snatching a late victory and Saracens ran the clock down to grind out the win.
Man of the match: Esterhuizen and Deysel were impressive for the Sharks, but Charlie Hodgson controlled the game well and scored more points than anyone else.
Tries: Strettle, Hodgson
Pens: Hodgson 3
For the Sharks:
Tries: Esterhuizen, Williams
Yellow cards: Etienne Oosthuizen (26 mins, professional foul), Pieter-Steph du Toit (28 mins, foul play), Matt Stevens (55 mins, repeated infringements)