The Sharks began their tour on a winning note as they upset the Highlanders 42-20 in Dunedin. Lukhanyo Am’s side, coming off a 23-15 opening round win against the Bulls in Durban, were lethal on the counter as the Highlanders struggled to cope with the speed and skill of the visitors’ loose forwards and back three.
Sharks No.8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe produced two game breaking offloads, both resulting in tries for Springbok winger Makazole Mapimpi while openside flanker James Venter also showed his speed as he raced to the tryline after the Highlanders had failed to collect Louis Schreuder’s up and under. Venter was also a nuisance at the breakdown, something the Sharks have lacked since the departure of Marcell Coetzee to Ulster.
The Sharks went 27-3 ahead at the break, and another penalty from flyhalf Curwin Bosch made it 30-3 before the Highlanders hit back through two quickfire tries. At 30-15, the Sharks seemed to be in danger of undoing all their hard work before Aphelele Fassi’s try brought them some breathing space. Michael Collins scored another for the Highlanders in reply after some superb work on the touchline from Te Ariki Ben-Nicholas, but Fassi’s second, again scored against the run of play, sealed a well deserved 42-20 win for the Durbanites.
The 5 try to 3 scoreline meant the Sharks did not get a try bonus point, but it was nevertheless an impressive performance.