The Sharks booked a Currie Cup final rematch with the Bulls at Loftus, just as they did in January, after flooring Griquas 28-24 in the semi-finals at Kings Park on Saturday.
Sean Everitt’s charges edged Griquas through better second-half discipline, scrum ascendancy and a superior lineout drive - playing quintessential Bulls rugby.
Their Currie Cup final adversaries, however, won’t be shaken as the Sharks failed to show the kind of clinical finishing required to beat the blue juggernaut at Loftus.
SCOREBOARD | Sharks 28-24 Griquas
But, if you don’t buy the ticket, you won’t win the raffle and the Sharks secured themselves a chance at knocking the Bulls off their perch.
The second semi-final was the antithesis of the Bulls-Province bare-knuckle slugfest with the Sharks and Griquas serving a far stiffer affair.
The Sharks started the game as if they would overwhelm Griquas with some phase play but, after fullback Curwin Bosch gave the home side a 3-0 lead, Griquas grew into the contest.
Not to be overawed, Griquas went to the blueprint that allowed them to outmuscle the Sharks during their shock round-robin 37-27 win at Kings Park in July.
Whitehead slotted three penalties to make Griquas momentum count as the visitors went 9-3 up to seize an early advantage.
The Sharks remained error-prone on attack and lacked discipline to sustain pressure on Griquas.
To basics they went with less than 10 minutes left in the first half and keeping things simple helped as hooker Kerron van Vuuren scored the first try from the back of a lineout drive.
Griquas thought they’d answered back when fullback Ashlon Davids rounded off a move from their own 22 but the try was disallowed for a knock-on in the build-up.
The Durbanites took the warning to heart and sprung straight onto attack to set up another offensive lineout.
From their throw-in, centre Marius Louw burst through two Griquas tacklers for the second Sharks touchdown, which gave them a handy 17-9 half-time lead.
Following a penalty apiece, Griquas stormed right back into the game once more nine minutes into the second half when lock Adre Smith squeeze the ball over the line to score their first try.
Scott Mathie’s team were proving difficult to put away despite losing impetus in the scrums and the Sharks bossing possessions and territory.
But the Sharks hit the visitors with another body blow when Van Vuuren copy-pasted his first try to score again from the back of a lineout drive in the 53rd minute.
Bosch got the dubious honour of getting his penalty taken away by the referee in this year’s Currie Cup when he took too long to kick at goal in the 60th minute. Referee Marius van der Westhuizen gave Griquas a scrum instead.
The Sharks had to play the final 10 minutes with 14 men after Louw was yellow-carded for a cynical offence.
Griquas scored their own driving maul try two minutes from time through substitute Johan Momsen.
But, despite even resorting to playing Bosch at No 9 from fullback after replacement scrumhalf Cameron Wright went off injured, the Sharks held on for the narrow victory.
Sharks - (17) 28
Tries: Kerron van Vuuren (2), Marius Louw
Conversions: Curwin Bosch (2)
Penalties: Curwin Bosch (3)
Griquas - (9) 24
Tries: Adré Smith, Johan Momsen
Conversion: George Whitehead
Penalties: George Whitehead (4)
15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Werner Kok, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Thaakir Abrahams, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Sanele Nohamba, 8 Phepsi Buthelezi (captain), 7 Henco Venter, 6 Dylan Richardson, 5 Gerbrandt Grobler, 4 Le Roux Roets, 3 Khutha Mchunu, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Ntuthuko Mchunu
Substitutes: 16 Dan Jooste, 17 Khwezi Mona, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Reniel Hugo, 20 Thembelani Bholi, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Jeremy Ward, 23 Anthony Volmink
15 Ashlon Davids, 14 Daniel Kasende, 13 Chris Hollis, 12 Jonathan Francke, 11 Eduan Keyter, 10 George Whitehead, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Ruan Steenkamp (captain), 7 Hanru Sirgel, 6 Stephen Fitzgerald, 5 Stefan Willemse, 4 Adré Smith, 3 Erich de Jager, 2 Janco Uys, 1 Mox Moxili
16 Alandre van Rooyen, 17 Andrew Beerwinkel, 18 Janu Botha, 19 Cameron
Lindsay, 20 Johan Momsen, 21 Readgan Oranje, 22 Tinus de Beer, 23