Brumbies ruin White's return with win over Sharks
Christian Lealiifano runs with the ball in Sydney on July 5, 2013 - by William West
The Brumbies scored the only try of a dour match in wet conditions with an over-emphasis on field kicking from both sides.
Lock Sam Carter scored the sole try surging through a hole in the Sharks defence off a short pass from scrum-half Nic White in the 63rd minute.
The Durban team's chances were not helped by an off-night from their Springbok goalkicker Frans Steyn, who missed three penalty attempts and was astray with his general kicking.
White's return to Canberra added spice to the top-of-the-table showdown, after the former World Cup-winning Springbok coach quit the Brumbies halfway through a four-year contract after steering the Canberra-based side to last year's Super 15 final.
It was a triumph for former Wallaby fly-half and now coach Stephen Larkham, whose Brumbies side shaded the Sharks in a physical forwards-dominated contest with both teams obsessed with kicking for field position.
There was a total of 98 kicks in the stop-start match with very little ball in hand attacking movements.
"We had our chances in the beginning to get the scoreboard rolling and maybe create a bit of distance, but we missed those," White said.
"The game goes in momentum. When we had the momentum we lost it and when they got the momentum they took charge of it.
"I'm sure we'll play the Brumbies again this year so you'd rather win the next one."
While Steyn was having problems, finishing with three penalties from six attempts, Christian Lealiifano landed three penalties and a conversion from seven shots to keep the home side ahead in the second half.
Two of Lealiifano's penalty attempts hit the upright, but in the end it didn't prove costly for the Brumbies.
The Sharks took a losing bonus point out of the defeat to lead the competition by one point on 36 points from defending champions Waikato Chiefs (35) and the Brumbies (34).
"It was a hugely rewarding result, any time you get a win over the Sharks is good, especially in the context that they have been leading the competition this year," Brumbies skipper Ben Mowen said.
"The boys had to dig deep in tough conditions but I thought we managed it well."
It was the Brumbies' fifth straight win at home this season, while the Sharks now head to New Zealand for two tough matches against the Canterbury Crusaders and Auckland Blues.
The Brumbies are likely to be without winger Joe Tomane for some weeks with a suspected fractured eye socket after a collision with a teammate in a tackle in the first half.
The Brumbies, who lead the Australian conference by five points, now head off for a two-match tour to South Africa, beginning with the Central Cheetahs in Bloemfontein next weekend.