The Sharks deservedly won the Absa Currie Cup for the first time since 1996 when they beat the Blue Bulls in a hard, uncompromising final in Durban on Saturday after leading 7-3 at halftime.

It was a final up there with the best as far as commitment goes.

Trailing 9-14 with just 30 seconds to go, the Blue Bulls were attacking in a wave reminiscent of their unlikely win last year when they beat the Sharks well after the hooter had gone. But an accidental offside ruling put paid to their comeback hopes.

It took 23 minutes of thrust and counter-thrust, with the Sharks slightly the better because of their greater urgency to the point of breakdown, before the scorers were troubled.

It followed a run by JP Pietersen after yet another aborted intercept attempt by the Bulls, with Ruan Pienaar dummying from the ensuing ruck to break through and stretch for the line after the tackle.

At 7-0, the Sharks were deservedly ahead but an immediate penalty by Morne Steyn made it 7-3, perhaps a truer reflection of the play at that stage.

The Sharks had a very narrow escape in the 20th minute when a pass by Francois Steyn was intercepted by Bryan Habana who set off on an 80-metre run – but an ankle tap from Frederic Michalak slowed him down and enabled Steyn to run the speedster down metres from the tryline.

The Sharks turned 7-3 ahead, but this lasted only two minutes after the break when Steyn put over a drop from some 46 metres out (7-6).

The Sharks, who had been pressing for some time and had the Bulls on the rack on one or two occasions, broke the deadlock after 20 minutes when Michalak’s fancy footwork wrong footed the Bulls’ defence. It went wide for Frans Steyn to eventually round off. Michalak converted (14-6).

Steyn pulled three points back immediately after the restart and at 14-9 the Blue Bulls were still very much in it – but the Sharks had full control and the escapes by the Bulls were nothing more than just that.