DURBAN, June 30 (Reuters) – Lwazi Mvovo scored an intercept try to take the Sharks to a 31-24 victory over South African rivals the Lions and keep their hopes of a Super Rugby playoff place alive on Saturday.
Replacement winger Mvovo raced clear to secure a vital four points for the Sharks, who are now within nine of the Lions at the top of the South African Conference with a game in hand.
The Lions remained in pole position with 41 points from 15 games, but the defeat opened the door for Argentina’s Jaguares to also hunt them down.
“We just kept on fighting and trying to stay in the game,” Sharks captain Ruan Botha said at the presentation.
“We knew it would be a big battle up front and it was about keeping focus and defending well.”
The Sharks scored the opening try inside three minutes as a ball to the front of an attacking line-out set up the driving maul, from which Dan du Preez barged over.
The Lions struck back quickly as Warren Whiteley carried the ball up and Jantjies’ floated skip-pass was perfect for Combrinck to cross.
That score had a little finesse about it, but the Lions’ second try was all power as Brink collected the ball 20 yard from the tryline and smashed his way through two Sharks tackles to score.
It took until a minute before the break for the visitors to get their third try as Marx set Smith free down the touchline and the Sevens veteran showed his pace to race clear and dot down to give the Lions a 21-11 halftime lead.
The Lions were dominant early in the second period, but after turning down a number of kickable penalties, had their lead cut to three points when Esterhuizen crossed in the corner for the Sharks.
The scores were level when Sharks flyhalf Robert du Preez kicked a penalty after the Lions were punished at a scrum, but the lead was restored when Jantjies added three points from the tee.
The see-saw game tilted again in the favour of the home side with Mvovo’s intercept try and Du Preez added both the conversion and a penalty to extend the home advantage to seven points.