Short-handed Sharks sink the Crusaders
Jean Deysel's blatant act of thuggery didn't prevent the Sharks pulling off a remarkable 30-25 win over the Crusaders in Christchurch tonight.
The Sharks overcame a red card to flanker Deysel in the 16th minute - and being reduced to 13 men mid-way through the second spell when Willem Alberts was yellow carded for being offside - to win in Christchurch for the first time since the Super Rugby competition began in 1996.
Earlier in the week Sharks coach Jake White said he hoped his side could create history but never in his wildest dreams would he thought this was possible to achieve with a man down and against a Crusaders side that had won their previous five matches.
This was a brave effort from a Sharks side that threw everything bar their body armour at a Crusaders side that repeatedly fumbled the ball in key moments, struggled with their concentration, gave away some needless penalties and had to rely on Colin Slade scoring all their points.
Much of the post-match chatter will also centre on Sharks flanker Deysel and what possessed him to plunge his boot into Jordan Taufua's face in the 16th minute.
Deysel was always going to be red-carded and as soon as referee Rohan Hoffman asked TMO Chris Wratt to review the incident he must have been preparing himself for his walk of shame.
While there was little doubt Deysel was frustrated Taufua had initially grabbed his foot after a ruck, his decision to lunge his foot back in a downward motion was inexplicable and a lengthy suspension appears inevitable.
Credit to the Sharks, though, because they didn't accept Deysel's early retirement as an excuse to exit the fight - even when they were reduced to 13 men mid-way through the second spell after No 8 Alberts was yellow carded for being offside.
When Slade kicked the penalty that was awarded after the red card the Crusaders led 10-7 but they spent the following 24 minutes struggling to get any traction - a consequence of their poor execution and the visitors' rugged defence - and only led 13-10 at halftime.
The message in the sheds from the Crusaders coaches would have been abrupt; what are you doing? Do you think you have already won this match because the Sharks are a man short?
Whatever the message it didn't have much effect.
The Sharks scored a try immediately after the break when halfback Cobus Reinach somehow blocked a Willi Heinz pass with his leg and won the long sprint to score his side's second try and Frans Steyn's conversion gave them a 17-13 lead.
Desperate times call for desperate measures and the Sharks opted to push the ref's patience to the limit and looked to kill or slow the Crusaders ruck ball at nearly every phase.
Captain Bismarck du Plessis should have been yellow carded for cynically ploughing into the side of the ruck when the Crusaders were just metres from the line but instead only received a final warning.
It was only a matter of time before the South Africans were reduced to 13 men and Alberts was eventually sib-binned in 64th minute as Hoffman's patience deserted him.
Slade kicked another penalty to push his side ahead 22-20 but a penalty by replacement playmaker Tim Swiel and a then a late converted try to Lourens Adriaanse following a lineout win and several rucks gave the Sharks a famous victory.
Sharks 30 (Sibusiso Sithole, Cobus Reinach, Lourens Adriaanse tries; Frans Steyn 2 cons, 2 pens, Tim Swiel con, pen) Crusaders 25 (Colin Slade try; con, 6 pens). HT: 10-13