The Sharks secured their first ever Super Rugby victory in Christchurch when they beat the Crusaders 25-30 with 14 player for most of the match.
Sharks flanker Jean Deysel was red carded for stamping in the 16th minute. In the second half Willem Alberts was yellow carded which meant the Sharks played for 64 minutes with 14 menand for 10 minutes with 13 men.
Even though the Crusaders had a significant numbers advantage in players the Sharks led for most of the second half and outscored the Crusaders by three tries to one.
The Crusaders started the match as the form team in Super Rugby as they were on a five match winning streak and could have gone to the top of the standings with a bonus point victory. Instead the Sharks remain on top of the Super Rugby standings with the vital away victory. The victory could be a major turning point in the Sharks campaign as they play the Blues next week in Albany and then return home for two matches against the Stormers and one match against the Cheetahs who are on the bottom of the standings.
The victory almost certainly wraps up the South African Conference as the Sharks now lead the Bulls by 12 points. The result is the first time the Sharks have beaten the Crusaders at home in the history of Super Rugby, and it was the first time any South African side has won in Christchurch since 2001.
The Crusaders won the forward battle, yet despite dominating possession they were held out by a desperate defence by the Sharks.The winning points came with a try to replacement hooker Kyle Cooper with five minutes remaining. The win turned around the Sharks’ fortunes after they had lost two of their last three games, but for captain Bismarck du Plessis it was more important that they broke their Christchurch hoodoo.
It’s very emotional for us, we’ve been here and come close but we’ve never won here so it’s a big thing, he said. A red card that early in the game just brings the team so much closer to each other and everybody talked so much it made my job that much easier. But I wouldn’t say I would like another red card early next week.
The Sharks struck early with a quick try to Sibusiso Sithole, the result of a deft back-of-the-hand pass by Frans Steyn who started the move when he sliced open the Crusaders defences. Colin Slade levelled the score with a try and conversion and then put the Crusaders ahead with a penalty when Deysel was red-carded for stamping on the face of Crusaders loose forward Jordan Taufua.
A further penalty pushed the Crusaders out to 13-7 before Steyn narrowed the gap with his first penalty just on half-time. An individual kick and chase effort by Cobus Reinach put the Sharks back in front immediately after the resumption. A series of penalties by Slade and Steyn had the Sharks ahead 20-19 when the Crusaders regained the lead with another Slade kick after Alberts was yellow-carded.
The lead chopped and changed again as Tim Swiel and Slade exchanged further penalties before Cooper sealed the outcome. The seven-time champion Crusaders, who at one stage enjoyed 81% of the possession, had to settle for one bonus point.
It left them third in the New Zealand conference behind the Chiefs and Highlanders and fifth overall.
Final Score Crusaders 25 (13) Sharks 30 (10)
Tries – C.Slade
Pen – C.Slade 6
Con – C.Slade
Tries - S. Sithole, C.Reinach, K.Cooper
Pen – F.Steyn 2, T.Swiel
Con -F.Steyn 2, T.Swiel
Cards – J.Deysel (16th min Red card), W.Alberts (64th min yellow)