Marais debut try seals Currie Cup win for Sharks
PRETORIA (AFP) - Debutant SP Marais scored an intercept try six minutes from time to give the Sharks a 33-25 home win over the Lions Friday in a Currie Cup thriller.
Right-wing Marais, one of many departees from the Southern Kings after they lost Super 15 status this month, pounced as the Lions tried to run the ball from deep in their half.
But the bold move backfired as Marais snatched a floating pass and sprinted over for a try replacement Fred Zeilinga converted at Kings Park to close the scoring.
After a shock home loss to Griquas last weekend in the first round of the leading South African rugby competition, the victorious Sharks trooped off a relieved team.
It was the first success for new Sharks bosses and former Springbok stars John Smit (chief executive) and Brendan Venter (coaching director) since a mid-year shake-up.
And while the Durban side deserved the four points for the win, the Lions will be bitterly disappointed to leave the Indian Ocean city without any reward.
The Johannesburg outfit believed they had earned two bonus points when replacement and Namibia full-back Crysander Botha went over for a last-minute try.
But the referee thought he had seen a midfield infringement and referred the incident to the television match official, who confirmed No. 8 Willie Britz was offside.
Trailing 17-6 midway through the first half, the Sharks scored two converted tries to gain a three-point lead by half-time in warm, dry conditions.
Sharks had veteran full-back Odwa Ndungane sin binned just before the break for a high, dangerous tackle, but the Lions failed to score when they had a one-man advantage.
The lead changed four times during the second half of a lively affair before Marais struck to lift the Sharks off the bottom of the table and into second place.
Flank Brynard Stander, centre Heimar Williams and Marais scored tries for the Sharks, fly-half Butch James kicked two conversions and three penalties and Zeilinga a conversion and a penalty.
Left-wing Anthony Volmink crossed the try-line twice for the Lions and flank Jaco Kriel once while fly-half Elton Jantjies slotted two conversions and two penalties.
Sharks trail new leaders the Bulls by one point after the Pretoria side overcame Griquas 15-9 in one of the poorest Currie Cup matches for many seasons.
Full-back Jurgen Visser kicked three penalties and fly-half Tony Jantjies two for the home side and fly-half Francois Brummer landed three penalties for the visitors from Kimberley.
The game was an eyesore for a 10,000 crowd at Loftus Versfeld stadium with the referee the busiest man on the field as he repeatedly awarded penalties, often for basic errors.
Neither side could master the recently introduced crouch-bind-set scrum law, and Bulls replacement scrum-half Ruan Snyman was yellow carded for a crooked feed.