Veteran wing Alshaun Bock became an instant hero at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium after his two sparkling tries helped fire the Southern Kings to a famous 35-32 win over the Sharks at the weekend.
The evergreen flyer, who turns 35 tomorrow, was only called into the team at the last moment after an injury to Wandile Mjekevu.
Bock had been supposed to play in the curtain-raiser between the EP Kings and the Border Bulldogs until he got his 11th hour call-up.
It was the first time that the Kings had managed to beat South African opposition in Super Rugby and it was their third win on the trot after victories over the Waratahs and Melbourne Rebels in their previous games.
There were 22 000 fans to watch a thrill-a-minute encounter which the Kings clinched at the death when Pieter-Steyn de Wet went over for the Kings’ fourth try two minutes before the end on Saturday.
An even bigger crowd is expected at the stadium this Saturday when the Kings hunt for another win against Australia’s Brumbies.
“It was an unbelievable feeling to score those tries,” Bock, who was named man of the match, said.
“I can’t describe the feeling – it was also my first Super Rugby try.
“It was just awesome, hey. This is a big moment. It is the best moment I ever had on a rugby field.
“Tonight was just a team effort – it was a late call-up and I am just happy to contribute to the side.
“I will be turning 35 on Tuesday so this was a nice early birthday present,” he said.
“It was only three hours before the game that I knew I would be playing. “The crowd was unbelievable. “We always want to fill the stadium with the type of rugby that we play and it was great to have a big crowd supporting us and to hear all the shout-outs from the stands.”
An emotional Kings coach, Deon Davids, described the win as very, very special.
“I must thank everyone for all their support and all the people of Port Elizabeth who came out to support us,” he said.
“In the last five minutes, the support really meant a lot to us and helped the team get over the line.
“I am really glad Alshaun bounced back.
“We were a bit worried with the last-minute changes that we had.
“We almost also lost fullback Masixole Banda and he had to pass a fitness test on the morning of the game.
“Alshaun was unlucky to lose his place to Yaw Penxe earlier in the season after he played well.
“He wanted to take this opportunity and he bounced back excellently,” Davids said.
“I am very happy for him and for all the hard work he has put in. He deserves the accolades in such a special win.”
Asked if he would allow his team an extra beer to celebrate the win, Davids said: “They can do whatever they want tonight.”
Kings skipper Lionel Cronje said it had been a fantastic day for his victorious team.
“The guys are super stoked. This has just been a phenomenal day. It’s just nice that it’s in favour of the Kings today.
“The guys have fought so hard for this victory, to get over this hurdle of beating a South African side.
“We have now scored three wins in a row and that is history for the franchise.”
Cronje said the big crowd had played a part in carrying the Kings over the line. “Home advantage should never be underestimated.
“It was awesome to come out and play in a stadium like this and you could feel the buzz out on the field. It was absolutely phenomenal.”