The Southern Kings produced some brilliant running rugby to beat the Sharks 35-32 at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
The home side outscored their opponents by four tries to two with Alshaun Bock, who was a late inclusion in the team, bagging a brace in an outstanding performance.
If you watched the Reds and the Rebels play or the Bulls against Highlanders at Loftus Versfeld with a light peppering of spectators and then had watched the Kings play the Sharks with more than 20 000 enthusiastic spectators, you really would wonder why there are people who consider stopping the Kings from playing Super Rugby.
The rugby they played and the support that they had were outstanding. And they all - players, coaches and spectators - seemed in such a joyful mood. At the end they deserved the victory to rejoice in. This is a day that Port Elizabeth rugby will remember. This is a day.
It took the Kings less than a minute to get the lead and at the end less than a minute to hang into it in the dramatic last 12 minutes when the Sharks took the lead and then increased it only for a brilliant try to dash victory from their lips with 33 seconds to play.
The Kings had to overcome hurdles. They had a history of defeats and they were being generally touted for the chop from Super Rugby and then in the match they had to overcome a yellow card at a crucial time in the second half and a penalty count of 13-5 against them. But they did not know how to stop trying with every tiny piece of energy that they had.
The Kings kicked off, Ruan Botha of the Sharks was penalised and Lionel Cronje goaled. 3-0 in under 2 minutes. Back came the Kings. The chasers of a long kick forced fullback Rhyno Smith out. The Kings won the line-out on their left and Cronje kicked a ling diagonal to the right. The ball bounced perfectly for Alshaun Bock, a 34-year-old rugby nomad from the Boland who was originally chosen to play in the curtainraiser before late elevation to Super Rugby, Bock easily scored the try. 8-0 after 5 minutes.
From the kick-off Tyler Paul of the Kings dropped the easy catch and Ross Geldenhuys was penalised. Pat Lambie goaled. 8-3 after 6 minutes. He goaled again after the Sharks attacked in fast phases. This time Andisa Ntsila was the player penalised. 8-6 after 17 minutes.
Twice in the match Cronje tried short kicks that spelt trouble for his side. The Sharks countered off the first one and Lambie's diagonal kick just eluded Botha on the right wing.
A penalty gave the Sharks a five-metre line-out. They mauled and, when it fell down near the line, Daniel du Preez picked up, dived and stretched and scored. Lambie converted from far out. 13-8 after 24 minutes.
Just after this Lambie collided with his fullback and was treated.
At this stage of the game the Kings were doing little but defend and they did so with heart and soul. But they were not entirely defensive and looked for opportunities to attack. They destroyed a Sharks scrum and used the penalty that followed to set up a line-out. Cronje could well have scored the try but he did not hold onto a difficult pass. But the Kings stayed attacking, and Cronje stayed back and dropped a goal. 13-11 to the Sharks after 32 minutes.
The referee suggested to Lambie that he leave the field for a head injury assessment. He did and did not come back to the match, his place taken by Garth April.
April goaled a long penalty kick that struck upright and crossbar before going over. 16-11 after 37 minutes.
The Kings used the little time well. They got into Sharks territory, Bock sold a dummy and opened up the defence with a rapid run. He gave to Cronje who made tracks for the posts, felled as Smith tackled him. Smith's tackle was judged to be high and forceful and he was sent to the sin bin.
At half time the Kings led 18-16.
Lambie did not return to the match in the second half, causing concern in the light of his recent injuries.
The Sharks kicked off to start the second half and from a tackle/ruck just inside the Kings' 22, scrumhalf Louis Schreuder sidestepped and broke. Challenged at the half-way line he passed to Bock on his right and just in from touch the wing raced downfield, beating a weak attempted tackle by April to score. Cronje converted from far out and the Kings led 25-16.
The Kings had had the edge in the scrums but Geldenhuys was sent to the sin bin for a tackle infringement after the referee had warned the Kings that this would happen, and then the Sharks changed their whole front row.
When Geldenhuys was sent off, April goaled. 25-19 after 54 minutes.
Cronje kicked a grubber which Lukhanyo Am gathered. He traced in counterattack, beating several opponents. Jean-Luc du Preez carried it on but he was brought down just short of the line. The Kings were penalised at the scrum and the Sharks opted for a five-metre line-out and maul but Kings managed to win a turnover.
The Kings had some wonderful interpassing but in their own territory and after the Sharks destroyed their seven-man scrum, the Sharks went wide left and then wide right where Lwazi Mvovo, looking much heavier than a while back, now a prop-esque wing, cut inside and scored. April converted. and the Sharks led 26-25 after 59 minutes.
Even though mercurial Masixole Banda went off with what seemed a thigh injury, the Kings attacked, April was penalised and Cronje made it 28-26 to the Kings with 18 minutes to play.
Geldenhuys was released from his penance but the Sharks were hot into attack. A Jaco Reinach charge-down forced the Kings to extricate themselves from a line-out five metres from their line, which they managed.
Two penalties by April gave the Sharks back the lead with 12 minutes to go and then increased it to 32-28 with five minutes to go.
Then heaven smiled on Port Elizabeth and its Kings. A penalty, just thjeir third of the half, gave them a five-metre line-out on their right. They mauled and bashed. Muscular Chris Cloete was close, then Dayan van der Westhuizen. They bashed but bashing did not work and they went wide left. Under pressure Cronje got a great pass away to Berton Klaasen. The centre threw a long pass to Pieter-Steyn de Wet who scored the try that gave the Kings the lead, by a point. Cronje's excellent conversion increased that to two points. There were still 33 seconds tom play.
When the Sharks knocked on, there was a scrum as the clock struck 80 and the siren went.
The scrum collapsed and was reset.
The scrum collapsed again and was reset again - amid unbearable tension.
The referee awarded a free kick from the Sharks which drew an angry response from Thomas du Toit. Cronje kicked the ball out.
It was an historic victory. For the first time the Kings had beaten a South African team. For the first time they had won three matches in succession - the Waratahs, the Rebels and the Sharks. In these three matches they have scored 105 points.
All Hail the Kings!
Man of the Match: The candidates are Kings - relentless Chris Cloete, general Lionel Cronje with his wonderful boot, lively, unpredictable Masixole Banda and our choice Alshaun Bock, the late inclusion who scored two tries and made a third - three quarters of the Kings' tries in the match.
For Southern Kings:
Tries: Bock 2, Cronje, De Wet
Cons: Cronje 3
Pens: Cronje 2
Tries: JL du Preez, Mvovo
Cons: Lambie, April
Pens: Lambie 2, April 4
Yellow cards: Rhyno Smith (Sharks, 39 - dangerous play, high tackle), Ross Geldenhuys (Southern Kings, 53 - repeated infringements, not rolling away)
Southern Kings: 15 Masixole Banda, 14 Alshaun Bock, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Luzuko Vulindlu, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Lionel Cronje (captain), 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Andisa Ntsila, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 4 Irne Herbst, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Martin Bezuidenhout, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Kurt Haupt, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 19 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 20 Stefan Willemse, 21 Johan Steyn, 22 Pieter-Steyn de Wet, 23 Nicolaas Hanekom.
Sharks: 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Jacobus van Wyk, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Jeremy Ward, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie (captain), 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Philip van der Walt, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Mahlatse Ralepelle, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Stephan Lewies, 20 Lubabalo Mtembu, 21 Jacobus Reinach, 22 Garth April, 23 Sibusiso Nkosi.
Referee: Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
Assistant referees: Quinton Immelman (South Africa), AJ Jacobs (South Africa)
TMO: Christie du Preez (South Africa)
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