Springbok wing Makazole Mapimpi notched a brace for the hosts in a five-try performance, with his fellow national team-mate Bongi Mbonambi (hooker), Werner Kok (wing) and Boeta Chamberlain (fullback) also crossing the whitewash in a historic afternoon for South African club rugby.

Harlequins played their part with Josh Bassett and Springbok centre André Esterhuizen dotting down twice each for the visitors in addition to a solo effort by Will Evans. They took advantage of a yellow card to Mbonambi and a red card to Bok prop Ox Nché to produce a tense finale.

It was Harlequins who opened the scoring after a series of lineouts deep in Cell C Sharks territory.

After the rolling maul was thwarted on the right flank, Quins switched play the entire width of the field with Nick David finding Bassett on the extreme left to touch down. Tommy Allan added the conversion.

The Cell C Sharks responded with a powerful maul off the back of a lineout and Mbonambi dotted down in the corner. Flyhalf Curwin Bosch added the extras before kicking a long-range penalty goal to hand the hosts a 10-7 lead.

Mapimpi added Cell C Sharks’ second try of the afternoon with a delightful solo run and finished under the posts, and again Bosch was competent with the conversion from the tee.

A wonderfully worked set piece saw Mapimpi dot down for a second time. Scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse backhanded the ball to the wing off the back of a scrum, and Mapimpi went untouched as he crossed the whitewash.

Harlequins responded with a late first-half try from flank Will Evans – he rumbled over off the back of a well-worked rolling maul by the visitors taking the score to 22-14 at the interval.

The KwaZulu-Natalians added to their lead 10 minutes into the second period when Kok lofted a ball over the Harlequins defensive line and dotted down in the corner himself.

The hosts then got themselves in card trouble with Mbonambi was sent to the sin bin after persistent penalties and Nché received his marching orders for a dangerous tackle.

That set the stage for Esterhuizen, who notched up two tries in five minutes to get Harlequins back into the contest. Just as Quins looked like they were going to complete an unlikely comeback, Chamberlain crossed for the hosts to end the tie in the final minute.

The Cell C Sharks travel to France to take on the Bordeaux-Begles in round two on Friday evening, while Harlequins will also play host to French opposition when they welcome Racing 92 to Twickenham Stoop next Sunday.


Cell C Sharks 39 (22) - Tries: Bongi Mbonambi, Makazole Mapimpi (2), Werner Kok, Boeta Chamberlain. Conversions: Curwin Bosch (4). Penalty goals: Bosch (2).

Harlequins 31 (14) - Tries: Josh Bassett (2), Will Evans, Andre Esterhuizen (2). Conversions: Tommasso Allan (2), Will Edwards.