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Sharks battle to victory over Bulls as URC finally makes its South Africa debut

By PA
(Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

The Sharks battled to a 30-16 victory over the Bulls in Durban as the United Rugby Championship belatedly made its debut on South African soil on Friday.

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Following the postponement of two rounds of cross-hemisphere clashes in the country due to the discovery of a new coronavirus variant, organisers brought forward this Round 12 fixture to help fill the gap.

David Kriel touched down against the run of play as the Bulls took a 13-9 lead into half-time, but skipper Lukhanyo Am’s terrific intercept try and Kerron Van Vuuren’s late touchdown helped the Sharks pick up their second win of the season.

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Am was one of several Springboks returning to a strong Sharks side, with Siya Kolisi and Makazole Mapimpi also among those making their first URC outings.

Boeta Chamberlain kicked 20 points for the Sharks, while Morne Steyn racked up 11 for the visitors at Jonsson Kings Park, which hosted 2,000 fans for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

Sbu Nkosi squandered the Sharks’ first real sight of the try line having dusted himself down after sustaining an apparent shoulder injury in making a crunching tackle on Madosh Tambwe.

Chamberlain missed an opportunity to open the scoring from the tee before Nkosi spilled the ball as he looked to touch down in the corner after a kick forward from Am had sparked a period of Sharks pressure on the Bulls’ line.

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The home fly-half did put three points on the board with a straightforward penalty as the match approached the 20-minute mark, but the Bulls scored the game’s opening try with their first meaningful attack thanks to Kriel’s stretch for the line, with Steyn adding the extras.

Steyn and Chamberlain then traded a pair of kicks apiece to send the Bulls in with a four-point lead at half-time.

Chamberlain dragged a penalty wide of the posts early in the second period, but he reduced the deficit to a single point with his next attempt and was on target again after Am superbly intercepted a Steyn pass to charge half the length of the field and under the posts, opening up a 19-13 lead.

Steyn pulled the Bulls back within three in the 57th minute, but Chamberlain kicked two more penalties either side of Lizo Gqoboka being sin-binned for collapsing a scrum, and two more misses on the night mattered little as Van Vuuren went over from a driving maul to put 14 points between the teams.

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