DURBAN, April 21 (Reuters) - Burly prop Thomas du Toit crashed over for a late try as the Sharks claimed a crucial 24-17 victory over the Stormers in a South African Super Rugby derby at King’s Park on Saturday.
The match was full of errors from both sides, but sprung to life in the second half as the Sharks kept their playoff hopes alive and inflicted a sixth defeat of the season on the ailing Stormers.
Brilliant centre Lukhanyo Am and flanker Jean-Luc du Preez also crossed the tryline for the home team, who move to 18 points in the South African conference, 12 behind runaway leaders the Lions, with both sides having played nine matches.
The Stormers scored their tries through wing Raymond Rhule and hooker Ramone Samuels, and were always in the game as they led 7-3 at halftime.
“We were a lot more clinical with the ball in hand and held onto it when we had to,” Sharks captain Ruan Botha said at the post-match presentation.
“We have a bye now, so we can have some time off and come back fresh to face the Highlanders.”
The first half was reduced to a kicking contest as both teams looked for territory rather than keeping the ball in hand, and it took until two minutes before halftime for the first real piece of enterprising play.
Stormers flanker Siya Kolisi was set free on the left wing and he showed great pace and awareness to time his inside pass perfectly for Rhule to cruise over the line.
The Sharks looked to be much more positive in the second period and were immediately rewarded as Am’s chip over the Stormers defence was perfect for wing Makazole Mapimpi, who was hauled down just short of the line, but his no-look pass was collected on the stretch by Am to complete a move he had started.
The Cape Town-based side hit the front again with a try in the corner from Samuels, but were reduced to 14 players when scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage was sent to the sin-bin after a deliberate knock-down on the hour-mark.
The Sharks made them pay as Robert du Preez created an opportunity for his brother Jean-Luc, who crossed under the posts to level the scores, before Du Toit crashed over for the winning score 10 minutes from the end.
“We didn’t take our opportunities, despite the fact we created a lot,” Stormers captain Siya Kolisi said.
“We are still confident (of making the playoffs). It’s going to be a tough road for us, we need to go back home and win our next three games.” (Reporting by Nick Said Editing by Toby Davis)