VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS: Sharks bite Bulls 32-10, Super Rugby R17 2012
Saturday 7 Jul 2012 8:25 a.m.
The Sharks stayed in the hunt for a playoff place in Super Rugby, dominating from the start to beat the Bulls 32-10 and claim a four-try bonus point in their must-win match.
Hooker Bismarck du Plessis powered over in the 12th minute and wing JP Pietersen, captain Keegan Daniel and fullback Louis Ludik also added tries for the clear victory at the Sharks' Kings Park.
Ludik's bonus point-earning score came in the last three minutes to lift the Sharks level with the Bulls on 54 points and inside the playoff places.
The Bulls scored their only try through Zane Kirchner, but the three-time champions were outplayed for almost all of the match to leave their own playoff status in the balance heading into next weekend's final round of regular-season games.
The Bulls stay fifth and the Sharks move up to sixth to hold the final playoff spot after Ludik's late diving try, meaning the Durban-based team will make the post season if it takes maximum points from its final game, at home to the Cheetahs.
The defending champion Reds and Hurricanes are a point behind and can still qualify for the four-team playoffs for a place in the semifinals if results go their way on the last weekend.
The Sharks used the bulk of their forwards to wear down a lacklustre Bulls team and were clinical with almost every try-scoring opportunity to keep in the race after a shaky start to the competition.
They turned down a penalty in front of the posts in the 11th minute to chase an early five-pointer in a game they had to win to stay alive. The plan worked a minute later when Springboks flanker Marcell Coetzee offloaded to fellow international Du Plessis, and the front-rower powered through an attempted tackle by Bulls fullback Kirchner to force his way over.
Morne Steyn cut the lead to 7-3 with the Bulls' first points in the 16th, but the returning Francois Steyn launched a typical long-range penalty for 10-3 to the Sharks inside 20 minutes. It was Steyn's first game since rejoining his former team from France's Stade Metro.
The Sharks attacked the short side after a series of forward surges for Pietersen's try, and South Africa's right wing dotted down just inside the touchline in the 26th off a pass by scrumhalf Charl McLeod for the fast-starting home team's second.
Frederic Michalak converted from the touchline for a 17-3 advantage. The former French international stretched it out to 20-3 soon after to continue the flying start.
The rampant Sharks went over for a third try three minutes into the second half after prop Jannie du Plessis' inside pass found Steyn in space down the left side. The Sharks recycled and went to the short side again for No. 8
Daniel to spin out of a tackle and slam the ball onto the tryline. Outplayed in the first 40, the Bulls crossed through Kirchner in the 51st when he cut inside his marker to stretch out for the score. Morne Steyn's sweet conversion from the left touchline gave the Bulls a 15-point deficit to make up in the last half hour.
But they didn't come close to crossing again, and even though prop Tendai Mtawarira and replacement loose forward Jean Deysel were repelled just short of the line for the Sharks, Ludik sliced through a gap and slid in to earn a precious bonus point for the Durban team.
Sharks 32 (Bismarck du Plessis, JP Pietersen, Keegan Daniel, Louis Ludik tries, Frederic Michalak 2 conversions, penalty, Meyer Bosman conversion, Francois Steyn penalty), Bulls 10 (Zane Kirchner try; Morne Steyn conversion, penalty). HT: 20-3.