The Sharks completed their Super Rugby regular-season campaign with a 34-10 win over South African rivals the Stormers, but it was not enough to earn them claim a second-placed finish in the standings.
The Sharks had already secured a play-off berth but needed to beat the Stormers by 35 points at Newlands as well as score four tries for a bonus point to replace the Crusaders in the top two.
They managed to get the win comfortably enough in the end and scored three tries through Paul Jordaan, S'bura Sithole and Stefan Ungerer, but never really looked like getting enough points to threaten the Crusaders' spot.
It always seemed unlikely that the Sharks would get the deluge of points they needed as opponents the Stormers, despite being out of play-off contention, have finished the season in style and were looking for a fifth successive victory.
They were also aiming to do the double over the Sharks and after 20 minutes in Cape Town were on course to do that with Nizaam Carr's converted try giving them a 7-3 lead.
However, the Sharks hit back and Jordaan's try just before the break following a successful kick and chase - combined with 14 points from the boot of South Africa fly-half Francois Steyn - saw the visitors leading 19-10 at the break.
The 2012 Super Rugby runners-up then outscored their hosts 15-0 in the second period, although they had to wait until the final five minutes to add to their try tally.
Sithole charged through to touch down in the 75th minute and then four minutes later Stefan Ungerer added his name to scoresheet after the Sharks had turned over possession.
The Sharks' third-placed finish means they will be back in action next weekend when they play the Highlanders for a place in the semi-finals.