Durban - The Sharks' 30-28 victory over the Golden Lions in Johannesburg on Sunday was a wonderful performance against a dominant side who threw everything at their opponents but couldn't pull off a win.
Sharks coach Sean Everitt said he was proud of his charges, as well as the temperament shown by his two young halfbacks who last year were playing in his under-19 side and this year are performing like veterans.
"We had a good, but slow start," he told the Sharks' official website. "I thought we played our way into the game in the first half and in the end we played our way into a position to win the game but then came a bit short under pressure. But that's playing with youngsters, they'll make those kinds of mistakes and will learn along the way. So we're very happy with the win, had we lost we wouldn't be in the race but we're certainly in there and next week is a big game for us."
With one round left to play in the pool stages and with the fixtures remaining, there are numerous permutations that, should the Sharks defeat the Blue Bulls and other results go theirway, a home semi-final is a real possibility.
"There are some interesting scenarios ahead," Everitt said. "After what we've been through, I think the guys will be very happy with a semi-final spot, but the cherry on the top would be a home semi and hopefully a home final.
Looking at the game, he explained: "They put us under pressure and when you're going backwards and conceding metres, it becomes really difficult and then you tend to concede penalties which we did do. That doesn't help from a territory point of view, never mind on the scoreboard, so I think we were a bit fortunate to get the result because the Lions are a very good rugby team.
"There are certain things we can take out of this game, that we can work hard on to be a better team."
Everitt admitted that he was thrilled with the way his debutant flyhalf Boeta Chamberlain came through the match. The youngster was calm and assured and brought a highly educated boot to the game which often paid dividends.
"He's a bit of an unknown factor," said Everitt. "I was fortunate enough to work with him last year and he kicked drop-goals a number of times in the under-19 competition and did it in the final against the Bulls. I knew that if he was on top of his game he'd do well and I thought he had a great debut, coming in to fill big boots - Curwin Bosch's - and I thought he did that admirably.
"He'll only grow and get better. He's 19, turning 20 this year, played a few games for SA Under 20 so he has ability and potential and the experience he got against the Lions will certainly help him go forward."
Chamberlain, playing in his first-ever match for the Sharks, partnered with another young player at scrumhalf who last week made his run-on debut. Between the pair, they possibly represent the most inexperienced halfback pairing in the competition.
"Sanele Nohamba is a special rugby player who understands and reads the game really well and manages it like a guy who's been there for years. He has a mature head on his shoulders and was outstanding again while his kicking to poles was a massive plus for us with Curwin not being there. He actually asked for the kicking duties; that's the confidence he has within himself and it's always nice to coach a player like that. He also calls the plays and we look forward to what he still has to offer."
Everitt had also warned in the lead-up to the match that the Lions are a team that don't go away, they love playing with ball in hand and they look to up the intensity later in the game, which is where they've won their previous matches this season. Despite this late charge, the Sharks, and the bench in particular were up to the task.
"I thought the Lions played exceptionally well, they put us under a huge amount of pressure when they had the ball and it's extremely hard to get the ball from them when they have it. Hats off to the guys who came off the bench, it was always going to be tough for us in the last 20. We know the Lions win most of their games in the last 10-15 minutes, so I thought our bench did really well."
Co-captain Jeremy Ward also paid tribute to the reserves for their commitment under pressure.
"It was closer than we needed it to be, but credit to our bench last weekend and they did it again this time. We knew the Lions would up the tempo in the last quarter and because of the effort from the bench, we were able to match that."