Durban — The Sharks hung on in Parma for a dramatic 42-37 win over a spirited Zebre in the Durban team’s opening match of the new United Rugby Championship competition, and what a great game of rugby it was.
Both teams scored five tries apiece in a match of two halves which had the Sharks dominating the first half but losing the second to the Italians.
The first big moment in a game of many twists and turns came in the seventh minute when Zebre flyhalf Chris Cook was yellow-carded for lashing out with the boot at Kerron van Vuuren, and a series of charges on the Zebre line soon propelled lock Reniel Hugo over the line, and Chamberlain nailed the touchline conversion.
Zebre pulled three points back via the boot of scrumhalf Tif Eden but the Italians undid that good work when from the restart, wing Simone Gesi was sin-binned for a professional foul, and they were down to 13 men.
The Sharks capitalised on the advantage when Van Vuuren scored with one of his typical bulldozing charges and then Dylan Richardson put Werner Kok free for a sprint to the line, and suddenly the Sharks were 21-3 to the good, and when Chamberlain broke cleanly to give Rohan Janse van Rensburg a try on debut, a rout was on the cards with the game just 30 minutes old.
Zebre did have the last say in the half, though, when prop Luca Andreani went over from a lineout maul for a halftime score of 28-10.
Chamberlain kicked a penalty early in the new half but the first try went to winger Gesi and at 31-17 the home team was gaining in confidence, and the fightback was confirmed when prop Taine Fox-Matamua went over from close quarters to make it 31-222
As the game hit the three-quarter mark, on came former Lions strong man Carlu Sadie and in his first action as a Shark he won a scrum penalty for Chamberlain to push the score out to 34-22.
The outcome should have been settled with 15 minutes to go when James Venter scored 39-22 but then came a resounding Zebre fightback.
They earned a bonus point try via Gabriele Venditti and then gave the Sharks the shivers when winger Jacob Trulla scored to make it 39-34 with five minutes to go, and they seemed to have the match-clinching try with five minutes to go only for it to be disallowed because of obstruction on Kok.
Sharks 42 — Tries: Reniel Hugo, Kerron van Vuuren, Werner Kok, Rohan Janse van Vuuren, James Venter. Conversions: Boeta Chamberlain (4). Penalties: Chamberlain (3).
Zebre 37 — Tries: Luca Andreani, Simone Gesi, Taine Fox-Matamua, Gabriele Venditti, Jacop Trulla. Conversions: Tef Eden (3). Penalty: Eden.