Sharks claim the scalp of Highlanders in fine style

Akker van der Merwe of the Cell C Sharks scores a try during the Super Rugby match against the Highlanders at Kings Park Stadium, Durban on 5 May 2018.
Akker van der Merwe of the Cell C Sharks scores a try during the Super Rugby match against the Highlanders at Kings Park Stadium, Durban on 5 May 2018.
Image: Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix

How the Sharks suddenly front up for New Zealand sides while being absent against the others will remain one of the great 2018 Super Rugby mysteries.

It works for them though as they recorded a thoroughly commanding 38-12 win against a dogged, less chaotic but jaded Highlanders unit.

It was clear Aaron Mauger's charges picked the Bulls match as the one to win and while they remained competitive, a second consecutive win was a bridge to far. 

The Sharks though seemingly have a power-packed brand of rugby that not only works against their New Zealand foes, but also has an element of precision and enterprise missing when confronted by South African and Australian foes.

They've beaten two and narrowly lost to the Hurricanes.

With this triumph being their fourth one of the season and their first time winning consecutive matches, their timing was impeccable.

South African conference resembles Johannesburg's N1 in morning and afternoon traffic; one slip up and the team below you gets ahead.

The five points accrued from what was easily the Sharks' best home showing of the season saw them muscle their way to third place on the South African conference, a point behind the Jaguares and eight off the conference leading the Lions.

With the inconsistency that's comfortably settled into the South Africa while the Lions find different ways to disappoint each week on tour, it seemingly looks like the South African wild-card conference will be decided in the final round.

The Sharks scored two reasonably good first half tries to earn a 10-point lead while the first and seventh-minute tries from Akker van der Merwe and Makazole Mapimpi were early statements.

Loose-forward Dillon Hunt scored the Highlanders' sole first stanza try in the 27th minute when he peeled away from a rolling maul.

Physicality was married with panache in the second half with superb tries from Daniel du Preez (45th), S'busiso Nkosi (62nd) and Robert du Preez (68th).

The humidity that's dogged the Sharks at home all season was nowhere to be found and the passes that didn't stick in earlier matches were finding their intended recipients.

They fired from all cylinders for the better part of the cool evening but had a slight lapse in concentration when they allowed Teihorangi Walden to score in the 74th minute.

By then, the black horse had long bolted and trampled over its neon coloured obstacle.

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