The Vodacom Blue Bulls overturned an 11-point deficit on their way to a 22-18 (halftime 7-11) win over the Cell C Sharks in their Currie Cup Qualifying clash at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Friday.
The Blue Bulls found themselves trailing 18-7 after 53 minutes but they scored three unanswered tries to secure just their third win of the season.
Inside centre Marquit September and right wing Kefentse Mahlo both scored a brace of tries as the hosts outscored the Sharks XV four tries to two as they came out on top in a scrappy affair.
The Sharks XV opened the scoring through a seventh-minute penalty from left wing Marcel Coetzee before the match became a kicking affair with both teams making liberal use of the boot to try and win the territory battle.
The Blue Bulls struck back, in the 13th minute, when they made full use of an attacking scrum five metres from the Sharks line with September taking a flat ball to slip through a tackle to score between the posts for a converted try.
The visitors narrowed the gap to one point thanks to Coetzee’s second penalty but both teams were battling to find much continuity as the contest was bedevilled by some poor handling with the two teams offering up 18 handling errors during the first half.
But the Sharks XV finally put a few phases together before right wing Morne Joubert swapped passes with scrumhalf Hanco Venter before the wing dived over in the corner for an unconverted try as the visitors moved into an 11-7 lead after 26 minutes, a lead the Sharks XV would take to halftime.
The Blue Bulls were struggling to secure their own lineout ball and the Sharks XV had the better of the first 10 minutes of the second half.
The visitors finally made their dominance count when a series of forward drives saw outside centre Sibusiso Sithole dived over from close range for a converted try as the Sharks XV moved into an 18-7 lead after 53 minutes.
But the Blue Bulls struck back almost immediately when lock Abongile Nonkontwana charged down an attempted clearance with Mahlo on hand to score an unconverted try to narrow the gap to six points.
The Sharks XV were reduced to 14 men in the 61st minute when flank Christiaan De Bruin was yellow-carded for killing the ball illegally and the Blue Bulls took immediate advantage when September barged his way over for an unconverted try to leave the visitors clinging to a one-point lead.
The introduction of replacement flyhalf Tony Jantjies provided the Bulls with an injection of life and he sparked a sweeping backline move that saw the industrious flank Roelof Smit slip a pass to Mahlo who dived over in the corner to secure the bonus-point try as the Bulls moved into a 22-18 lead.
The Sharks XV threw everything they had into attack and the Bulls were reduced to 14 men when lock Marvin Orie was yellow carded for side entry at a ruck with the hooter having already sounded. But the Bulls held on for the narrow win.
Scorers: Vodacom Blue Bulls – Tries: Marquit September (2), Kefentse Mahlo (2); Conversion: Kurt Webster
Cell C Sharks XV – Tries: Morne Joubert, Sibusiso Sithole; Conversion: Duncan Campbell; Penalties: Marcel Coetzee (2).