Heavy rains that fell over the coastal city in KwaZulu-Natal meant the match was played in less-than-ideal conditions, making handling difficult while the heavy underfoot conditions also hampered the speedsters from both sides as the game turned into a bit of a tactical battle.
The Cell C Sharks, who held the upper hand in the set pieces, probably varied their kicking game better and managed to strike when they came close to the visitors’ try-line, scoring four tries to one in the process.
The hosts were out of the blocks in lightning quick fashion, scoring two tries – by big men Gerbrandt Grobler (lock) and Phepsi Buthelezi (No 8) – in the first 11 minutes.
Grobler’s effort came after a good lineout move, while the five-pointer scored by Buthelezi, a former Junior Springbok captain, was out of the training ground textbook after a deft chip over the top from Jaden Hendrikse (scrumhalf) was plucked out of the air by Marius Louw (centre), who popped the pill to a storming Buthelezi.
Curwin Bosch (flyhalf) converted both and traded a penalty goal with his opposite number, Jordan Hendrikse, during the remaining 29 minutes of a first half in which both teams failed to exert themselves, to hand the Cell C Sharks a 17-3 lead at the break.
Bosch added a second penalty goal in the 49th minute, but the Cell C Sharks had to wait until the hour-mark for their third try when Springbok hooker Bongi Mbonambi was driven over after a brilliant lineout maul.
A fifth consecutive successful kick at goal by Bosch all but sealed the win for the Cell C Sharks as the Emirates Lions struggled to put any meaningful attacking plays together.
Ten minutes later, replacement loose forward Sikhumbuzo Notshe sealed the Durbanites’ bonus-point with a good pick-and-drive try, which Bosch also converted to stretch the hosts’ lead to 31 points.
The Emirates Lions refused to give up though and former Junior Springbok Henco van Wyk (replacement back) scored a great try from a clever kick with less than five minutes to go, with Jordan Hendrikse’s conversion pushing their tally to double-digits.
Bosch had the final say though, making it seven from seven from the tee with a last-gasp penalty goal to push his personal tally to 17 points.
Cell C Sharks 37 (17) – Tries: Gerbrandt Grobler, Phepsi Buthelezi, Bongi Mbonambi, Sikhumbuzo Notshe. Conversions: Curwin Bosch (4). Penalty goals: Bosch (3).
Emirates Lions 10 (3) – Try: Henco van Wyk. Conversion: Jordan Hendrikse. Penalty goal: Jordan Hendrikse.