Springbok centre Lukhanyo Am score a try almost two minutes after regulation full-time to secure a thrilling 12-9 win for the Sharks over the Stormers at Newlands on Saturday.
The thrilling victory in a brutal arm-wrestle saw the Sharks advance to the quarterfinals for the fourth successive year and knocked the Stormers out of the competition.
For the umpteenth time this season the Stormers lacked creativity and looked poorly coached – relying solely on defence.
The Sharks not only outscored them by two tries to none, but the match-winning score was an entertaining and deserving effort.
The first half was tense, with each team scoring just once.
The Stormers were struck some early blows when No.8 Jaco Coetzee and lock Cobus Wiese were forced from the field.
The home side absorbed some early pressure and held the Sharks out before moving into opposition territory where they won a penalty. Josh Stander kicked the points to open the scoring.
The Stormers were inches from scoring the opening try, but a pass on the tryline was charged down by Sharks replacement Rhyno Smith who raced the length of the field to score against the run of play.
The hosts were struck a further blow shortly afterwards when hooker Bongi Mbonambi was shown a yellow card for leading with his arm, but they did not concede any further points and went into half-time trailing 3-5.
The Stormers went back in front early in the second half as Stander kicked another penalty following a dangerous tackle on JJ Engelbrecht.
The next points only came five minutes from the end, as Jean-Luc du Plessis kicked another penalty following a huge scrum effort from the forwards.
However, Sharks centre Lukhanyo Am would have the final say as he scored after the hooter to claim the win for his side.
Man of the match: Seabelo Senatla was a handful for the Sharks defence, Jaco Coetzee was very busy before he was replaced for a second time trough concussion. Johan du Toit and Chris Van Zyl were the Stormers’ most productive players on defence. However, the Stormers player that made the most crucial plays, including a vital penalty turnover in the final quarter was hooker Mbongeni Mbonambi. Sibusiso Nkosi and Lukhanyo Am looked were the most creative backs for a willing Sharks team. Andre Esterhuizen was brute force. Tyler Paul, Jacques Vermeulen and Ruben van Heerden were among the most productive Sharks forwards. Daniel du Preez was the perfect combination of energy and brute force – making 15 carries, beating defenders and his tackle count was well into doubles digits. The Sharks No.8 wins our award.
For the Stormers:
Pens: Stander 2, Du Plessis
For the Sharks:
Tries: Smith, Am
Con: Du Preez
Yellow card: Mbongeni Mbonambi (Stormers, 32 – foul play, elbow to the throat of an opponent)
15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 Johannes Engelbrecht, 12 Damian
de Allende, 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Josh Stander, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8
Jaco Coetzee, 7 Johan du Toit, 6 Ernst van Rhyn, 5 Chris van Zyl, 4
Cobus Wiese, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: 16 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 David Meihuizen, 20 Chris Massyn, 21 Justin Phillips, 22 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 23 Dan Kriel.
15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Sibusiso Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre
Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder
(captain), 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 Jacques Vermeulen, 5 Hyron
Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Kerron van Vuuren,
1 Mzamo Majola.
Replacements: 16 Cullen Collopy, 17 John-Hubert Meyer, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Gideon Koegelenberg, 20 Luke Stringer, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Jeremy Ward, 23 Rhyno Smith.
Referee: AJ Jacobs (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa), Divan Uys (South Africa)
TMO: Willie Vos (South Africa)