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Super Rugby: Bulls snatch narrow win over Sharks to move top
The Bulls moved back to the top of the Super Rugby standings with only one round of matches remaining following a nail-biting 20-19 victory over the Sharks at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
The Sharks looked set to win a gripping South African derby in Pretoria only for Jano Vermaak to score a match-winning try in the dying minutes.
Riaan Viljoen squandered a gilt-edge opportunity to snatch victory at the death for the Sharks, however his penalty drifted wide on the hooter.
A Morne Steyn penalty opened the scoring but it would be the Sharks who crossed the whitewash first thanks to an inspired effort from Patrick Lambie. The young playmaker - playing his 50th game for the Sharks at inside centre - cleverly chipped ahead as the visitors attacked from deep in their own 22, with Lwazi Mvovo turning on the gas to sprint 70-odd metres before finding Lambie up in support for a great try.
Lambie missed the very kickable conversion however, leaving the door open for Steyn to kick the Bulls back in front after Sharks captain Bismarck du Plessis was sin-binned for using his elbow to settle an argument.
Lambie did land his next effort when the Bulls were penalised on the deck, but the hosts struck straight back as Steyn's pin-point accurate kick found Bjorn Basson out wide and the wing bolted home for his first try of the season.
Steyn's conversion took the scores to 13-8 and missed penalties from Viljoen and Lambie meant that is how it stayed until the interval.
Lambie was back on target twice in quick succession after the restart - once after Dean Greyling was penalised at the scrum and then when Flip van der Merwe made a late tackle - to put the team from Durban ahead by a single point at 14-13.
Odwa Ndungane extended the lead when he collected Butch James's kick out wide and raced home for the Sharks' second try but again Lambie sent his conversion wide.
Needing seven points to get back in front, the Bulls starting turning down kickable penalties as they laid siege to the Sharks line, but the visitors' defence held firm through a ten-minute barrage of big Bulls runners.
Unable to strike from close range, the Bulls grabbed the winner on 73 minutes when Vermaak emerged from a frenetic spell of loose play to race home from 40m out to score under the posts.
Steyn's routine conversion put the Bulls ahead at 20-19 but the Bulls were made to sweat as Viljoen fluffed his attempt to nick it for the Sharks at the death.