In their glistening white alternative kit, the Cell C Sharks had sleekly ripped the home side to shreds in the first half hour with goal-line drive tries by lock Reniel Hugo and hooker Kerron van Vuuren in the 11th and 18th minute, before they flicked their tail and scored two fine tries through the backs.
First wing Werner Kok thundered in while Zebre Parma were down to 13 men (after two yellow cards) and then centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg scored a try on debut against 14 men with a beautifully engineered clean break from a scrum on halfway. Janse van Rensburg thundered in – he knows no other way.
With flyhalf Boeta Chamberlain converting all four from varying angles, the Fin was disappearing into the distance with Parma bobbing in its wake, until an incredible fightback.
Hooker Luca Bigi scored from a lineout drive in first half added time and then wing Simone Gesi claimed a second five minutes into the new half after some slick off-loading between backs and forwards.
When No 8 Taina Fox-Matamua scored a third five minutes later what had been a 25-point deficit had dwindled to nine.
A Chamberlain penalty goal and a fifth try – from a close-range drive by replacement hooker Dan Jooste – seemed to have restored order from a Sharks perspective at 39-22.
But Zebre came again, and again.
Lock Gabriele Venditti scored from a splintered lineout drive with eight minutes remaining and, from the restart, Zebre looked to have scored again with a sweeping move starting down the left and ending in the right-hand corner. The try seemed to have levelled the scores. The touchline conversion would have put the home side in the lead for the first time in the match with three minutes remaining.
But an obstruction on Kok at the start of the move had the try ruled out and from the resulting penalty Chamberlain made the KwaZulu-Natalians safe with time almost up. There was just enough for Tiff Eden to claim a second bonus point for the home side by narrowing the gap to fewer than seven points – they deserved it.
Zebre Parma 37 (10) – Tries: Luca Bigi, Simone Gesi, Taina Fox-Matamua, Gabriele Venditti, Jacopa Trulla. Conversions: Tiff Eden (3). Penalty goals: Eden (2).
Cell C Sharks 42 (28) – Tries: Reniel Hugo, Kerron van Vuuren, Werner Kok, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Dan Jooste. Conversions: Boeta Chamberlain (4). Penalty goals: Chamberlain (3).