Sharks hang on to beat Rebels in opening tour game
Melbourne Rebels outside centre Tamati Ellison (L) tackles the Coastal Sharks left lock Willem Alberts during their Super Rugby 15 match in Melbourne on May 2, 2014 - by Paul Crock
The Durban-based outfit scored their only try off a counter-attack through Springbok winger JP Pietersen midway through the second half to hang on for victory.
The Rebels strung together 14 phases in stoppage time to go after the clinching converted try, but the Sharks denied them with a turnover inside their quarter.
Jake White's Sharks won their eighth match of the season, and they will hang on to the competition lead with a five-point break over the ACT Brumbies, who play the Canterbury Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday.
The Sharks were indebted to another flawless goalkicking performance from Springbok back Frans Steyn, with five penalties and a conversion from six attempts.
But the Rebels stretched the Sharks defence and went into the final 10 minutes trailing by six points after replacement hooker Pat Leafa caught them unawares and scored wide out off a quick tap penalty by fly-half Bryce Hegarty.
It was a crucial win for the Sharks, who face a tough Australasian tour schedule against the Brumbies, Crusaders and Auckland Blues over the next three weeks.
The Sharks had been the last South African team to win on tour with their 23-13 victory over Western Force in Perth almost a year ago.
The Sharks, with former World Cup-winning Springbok coach White in charge this season, stuttered last week against the Otago Highlanders after winning seven of their opening eight games.
"We're happy with our first win on tour and our first win away from home," Sharks skipper Bismarck du Plessis said.
"We were happy with some of the areas we played in, but we definitely were not happy with our one-on-one tackles and I thought that one decision was quite difficult for us.
"But you've got to overcome them and we were fortunate to get that turnover near the end from Keegan Daniel."
The Sharks missed 30 tackles and conceded 20 turnovers, three of them at the breakdown.
They are off to Canberra next weekend for their next match on tour against the Brumbies, while the Rebels, who gained a losing bonus point to move ahead of the Queensland Reds at the bottom of the Australian conference, take on the Wellington Hurricanes at home.