But the home side failed to capitalise on their early momentum, as a high error rate and a retreating scrum stifled their attack for the rest of a half punctuated by two penalty goals to each side.
The Tahs looked to finally have their second five-pointer just before halftime, when Kurtley Beale swung the ball inside to a charging Israel Folau, but a desperate lunge by fullback Lwazi Mvovo denied the Wallaby fullback. Tempers flared when referee Rohan Hoffmann awarded the Sharks a contentious penalty in the ensuing ruck, and the resulting push and shove earned a passionate Tolu Latu a stern reproach.
The men from Durban didn’t have to wait long to make amends. The wily Lionel Cronje caught the Tahs napping from a penalty 60 metres out, nudging a cross-field kick into the arms of winger Odwa Ndungane, who strolled into the right corner unmarked. Steyn missed the sideline conversion and the chance to level the scores on the 50th minute.
But the Tahs countered with a try of their own two minutes later. Some slick hands through the backs created a one-on-one opportunity for Taqele Naiyaravoro, and the giant winger carried the helpless Mvovo over the line for the Tahs’ second try of the night. Foley nailed a sideline conversion and gave the home side some breathing room with a 9-point buffer.
That margin was short-lived, as momentum again shifted back to the Sharks. Some slick offloading from the South Africans saw the ball go through five sets of hands to find an unmarked Steyn, who ran around under the posts to make his own conversion a formality. And suddenly, with 20 minutes to go, the Sharks found themselves only two points adrift of a jittery home team.
It was Foley’s dependable right foot that settled fraying nerves, slotting successive penalty kicks to take the margin beyond a converted try with only ten minutes to play.
But the Sharks weren’t going down without a fight, as Cronje regathered his own chip kick to send Sithole into space down the left-hand channel minutes later. The winger’s dive into the corner was sent to the TMO, who judged Hooper and Beale had done just enough to deny the Sharks a much-needed score.
It was Foley who sealed the match on full time, pouncing on a Cronje knock-on 40 metres out to run over for his side’s third try and a 33-18 final score line.