Sharks post bonus-point win against Highlanderss
The five tries to two (38-12) bonus-point win ensured the Sharks are right back into play-off contention.
With a good track record as far as performances go against New Zealand opposition this season, the Sharks stepped up to the plate once again with a performance that showed just what this team is capable of.
The Sharks couldn't have scripted the start any better, the Highlanders losing early possession, captain Ruan Botha latching onto the high ball and then making major inroads before offloading to Armand van der Merwe – who outpaced the defence to score in 36 seconds.
There should have been a second try when Andre Esterhuizen lost the ball over the line, when he looked for contact instead of just grounding the ball.
However, Mapimpi made sure of the try moments later with some nifty interplay featuring Thomas du Toit, Tendai Mtawarira and Robert du Preez before the speedster got over in the corner.
Du Preez converted from the touchline to make it 14-0, with less than 10 minutes of the game played.
The following 15 minutes saw both sides ruing missed chances to build on attacking opportunities before the Highlanders finally had something to celebrate, a driving maul off an attacking line-out resulting in their first try of the match, halving the distance between the two teams.
The lead was pushed to 10 points after the Highlanders failed to field a high ball to concede a scrum. Tendai Mtawarira smashed his opposite to earn the penalty which Robert du Preez converted from 40 metres out.
The first half ended with some drama as the Sharks pushed for a last score, before emotions ran high with pushing and shoving without further points added as we took a 17-7 lead into the half-time break.
The second half started off in similar fashion to the first, although Mapimpi's outstanding effort was cut short with a try-saving tackle in the corner, after Robert du Preez then Andrew Esterhuizen had combined quite beautifully in the midfield.
But within minutes, Mapimpi was involved again, quickly getting Lukhanyo Am into space before he fed Daniel du Preez for the try, his brother Robert adding the two.
At 24-7, it was a healthy lead.
With a raft of changes coming on, there was a new spring in the step as quite the most outstanding passage of play led to the bonus point try, the offloads sublime and the awareness quite clinical. Sibusiso Nkosi rounded it off after Robert du Preez nudged the ball into the corner, but it was a wonderful team try.
The fifth try came with over 10 minutes of play remaining, Curwin Bosch receiving the ball in his own half and somehow threading his way 40 metres upfield before sending Robert du Preez into space, and then converting for an unassailable 38-7 lead.
Ben Smith showed why he's such a dangerous player with an lovely break from his own half before a long pass for his team's second try, but with five minutes remaining, it was too little too late.
Man of the match: The real candidates all come from the Sharks – Sibusiso Nkosi, Lukhanyo Am, Makazole Mapimpi, Andre Esterhuizen, Philip van der Walt, Thomas Du Toit, Armand van der Merwe and Tendai Mtawarira. Then there was the Du Preez brothers – flyhalf Robert du Preez, along with loose forwards Daniel du Preez and Jean-Luc Du Preez. Our award goes to the No.10, Robert du Preez, who marshalled the game, kicked immaculately and scored a great try.
For the Sharks:
Tries: Van der Merwe, Mapimpi, D du Preez, Nkosi, R du Preez
Cons: R du Preez 5
Pens: R du Preez
For the Highlanders:
Tries: Hunt, Walden
Sharks: 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Sibusiso Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Cameron Wright, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Philip van der Walt, 5 Ruan Botha (captain), 4 Tyler Paul, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Armand van der Merwe, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Ross Geldenhuys, 19 Stephan Lewies, 20 Jacques Vermeulen, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Marius Louw, 23 Lwazi Mvovo.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (captain), 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Teihorangi Walden, 11 Patelesio Tomkinson, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Aki Seiuli.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Kalolo Tuiloma, 19 Jackson Hemopo, 20 Elliot Dixon, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Josh Ioane, 23 Matt Faddes/Josh McKay.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant referees: AJ Jacobs, Cwengile Jadezweni
TMO: Christie du Preez