Sharks prop Tendai Mtawarira celebrated a record 157th Super Rugby appearance by a South African player by helping them trounce the Lions 42-5 in Johannesburg Friday.
The 33-year-old with 107 Springbok Test caps scrummed impressively and made several breaks before being substituted eight minutes into the second half at Ellis Park.
Mtawarira overtook retired national team captain and hooker Adriaan Strauss, whose 156 appearances came with the Cheetahs and Bulls.
“We dedicate this victory to the Beast,” said Sharks scrum-half and skipper Louis Schreuder, referring to the nickname of the Zimbabwe-born forward, after the round 8 match.
“The team were sharper tonight than in some of our recent matches and we defended superbly. This performance has been a long time coming.
“Now we must become consistent. We have risen to second in the standings despite losing three of our seven matches this season, including two at home.”
Lions skipper and hooker Malcolm Marx admitted they were outplayed in suffering a second heavy home loss this season after an 18-point drubbing by the Bulls.
“I think we got inside the Sharks’ 22 twice in the whole match — that is how bad it was. There are no excuses because we were outplayed from start to finish.”
The result on a wet night in the South African financial capital could have been even more one-sided had Sharks fly-half Robert du Preez not missed three of five kicks at goal.
Sharks rose from sixth to second in the combined table, three points behind trophy holders the Canterbury Crusaders of New Zealand, who host the ACT Brumbies of Australia Saturday.
The Durban outfit also replaced the Lions as leaders of the South African conference with the Johannesburg franchise three points adrift.
From the kick-off, the Sharks camped in Lions’ territory and it was surprising that they took 19 minutes to score given their dominance.
Lions lock Rhyno Herbst was in the sin bin when loose forward Jacques Vermeulen scored the first of the Sharks’ six tries.
Winger Makazole Mapimpi and centre Lukhanyo Am also scored and Du Preez converted the third try and kicked a penalty for a 20-point lead after 31 minutes.
Springbok flier Mapimpi claimed his second try before half-time to give the visiting team a 25-0 advantage heading for the changerooms.
The Lions overcame a 28-point deficit this season to beat the Melbourne Rebels in Johannesburg, but there was to be no equally dramatic comeback.
Instead, replacements Thomas du Toit and Aphelele Fassi scored tries for the Sharks and full-back Curwin Bosch slotted two conversions and a penalty.
All the Lions, runners-up in the past three Super Rugby finals, could muster in reply was a 79th-minute try from substitute winger Sylvian Mahuza.