A superb hat trick of tries by lock Reniel Hugo set up the Sharks for a comeback win of 33-30 against the Stormers in their Rainbow Cup SA opener at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday.
However, the home team had a late chance to win the game but centre Ruhan Nel failed to collect the ball, or properly dive on it, inside the in-goal area.
Trailing 23-12 at the break, the effort by Hugo helped the Durbanites score 21 points at one stage to make the Stormers pay for the three cards they conceded.
In total referee Jaco Peyper dished out four cards, with two reds given to Stormers players, while the Sharks’ yellow – to centre Jeremy Ward, came late on when the game was all but over.
Fighting back from being 17-0 down at one stage, the Sharks scored five tries to three in a total reversal from the first half where the Stormers were well in command.
A game of chess was predicted in the buildup and that’s how it played out in the early stages with the Stormers banking on their powerful pack and the Sharks on their sound kicking game.
Stormers captain and prop Steven Kitshoff put the screws on opposite number Ox Nche, but it was the string of penalties the Sharks conceded which created the initial scoreboard pressure by the Stormers.
After the Stormers bossed the scoreboard halfway through the first half to lead 20-7, new Sharks flank Siya Kolisi played a hand in both his team’s first two tries to narrow the damage at the break.
With national interests adding to the game, both teams were keen to give the ball air and Sharks fullback Aphelele Fassie and Stormers centre Ruhan Nel caught the eye.
The early Stormers tries came via Nel and centre Rikus Pretorius.
The new red card rule came into effect as early as the 15th minute when Stormers wing Seabelo Senatla was sent off for an aerial charge on Fassi.
The Stormers paid for their indiscipline when they were down to 13 after a yellow card to new No 8 Willie Engelbrecht which paved the way for the Sharks to hit back with their first try by prop Thomas du Toit.
Engelbrecht received a second yellow which resulted in a straight red card.
It proved to be the big difference.
Stormers: Tries: Herschel Jantjies, Rikus Pretorius, Damian Willemse, conversions: Kade Wolhuter (2), Abner van Reenen (1), penalties: Wolhuter (3).
Sharks: Tries: Thomas du Toit, Fez Mbatha, Reniel Hugo (3), conversions: Curwin Bosch (4).