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Super Rugby: Sharks beat Highlanders 31-27 at Kings Park
The Sharks narrowly overcame the Highlanders 31-27 at Kings Park to set up a Super Rugby semi-final with the Crusaders.
Two late penalties from Francois Steyn helped the Sharks subdue a spirited fightback from the visitors, who had led 27-25 with 16 minutes remaining.
Earlier, Steyn also kicked nine points as the Durban side quickly established a 10-point lead in the first half, but the Highlanders fought back to lead 17-13 at the interval.
The Sharks steadily reined in their New Zealand-based opponents after the break, yet Phil Burleigh's try set up a frantic finale before Steyn had the final word with two more penalties to secure a 31-27 victory.
The win ensured there will be South African representation in the Super Rugby semi-finals next weekend, with the Sharks facing the Crusaders in Christchurch, while the Waratahs and the Brumbies take each other on in an Australian derby clash in Sydney.
Steyn's first points arrived in the third minute after Jarrad Hoeata was penalised for straying offside at a ruck and the Sharks were 10-0 up after Steyn converted Marcell Coetzee's try from a drive.
Lima Sopoaga's penalty got the Highlanders on the board after Jannie du Plessis was penalised for being offside, yet Steyn restored the 10-point gap when Shane Christie stopped a maul illegally.
The tide began to turn when Malakai Fekitoa ran on to a pass from Ben Smith to crash over, Sopoaga converting, and Kane Hames' converted try on 40 minutes meant the Highlanders led at half-time.
Sopoaga had kicked the extras on Hames' score and pushed the New Zealand side further ahead with a penalty in the 48th minute after Willem Alberts was penalised for side-entry at a ruck.
The Sharks were level six minutes later, however.
Bismarck du Plessis dived onto the loose ball when Elliot Dixon's clearance at the back of a scrum went forward, and Steyn converted to make it 20-20.
Try-scorer turned provider in the 56th minute, Bismark du Plessis drawing in a defender before offloading to Tonderai Chavhanga, who dotted down in the left-hand corner.
The five-point lead was a slender one, though, and it evaporated in the 63rd minute as Burleigh grabbed the Highlanders' third try after gathering a pass from Patrick Osborne. Sopoaga converted.
Both Bismarck du Plessis and Jean Deysel went close to crossing for the Sharks to snatch the lead back, but it was Steyn who won the day for the hosts.
The Sharks edged a one-point lead when Steyn punished them for illegal scrummaging in the 74th minute and, on the stroke of full-time, he added one last three-pointer as a sweetener after several defenders were caught offside.
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|Friday 13th February|
|06:35||Crusaders vs Melbourne Rebels|
|08:40||Brumbies vs Reds|
|17:10||Lions vs Hurricanes|
|Saturday 14th February|
|06:35||Blues vs Chiefs|
|15:05||Sharks vs Cheetahs|
|17:05||Bulls vs Stormers|
|Sunday 15th February|
|06:05||Waratahs vs Western Force|
|Friday 20th February|
|06:35||Chiefs vs Brumbies|
|08:40||Melbourne Rebels vs Waratahs|
|17:10||Bulls vs Hurricanes|
|Saturday 21st February|
|06:35||Highlanders vs Crusaders|
|08:40||Reds vs Western Force|
|15:05||Stormers vs Blues|
|17:10||Sharks vs Lions|
|Friday 27th February|
|06:35||Highlanders vs Reds|
|11:00||Western Force vs Hurricanes|
|17:10||Cheetahs vs Blues|
|Saturday 28th February|
|06:35||Chiefs vs Crusaders|
|08:40||Melbourne Rebels vs Brumbies|
|15:05||Bulls vs Sharks|
|17:10||Lions vs Stormers|
|Friday 6th March|
|06:35||Chiefs vs Highlanders|
|08:40||Brumbies vs Western Force|
|Saturday 7th March|
|06:35||Blues vs Lions|
|08:40||Reds vs Waratahs|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com