The Sharks produced a powerful second half performance to secure a 38-30 win over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
It was a high-scoring match but nothing about it was soft. Both teams got stuck in and competed for every bit of ball they could get, but both teams had men willing to run with enthusiasm
And it was certainly not one-way traffic. The Cheetahs led 20-15 at half-time and 23-22 till they were penalised on 55 minutes and Curwin Bosch goaled yet again. But the try count was only 4-3.
The 38-30 victory meant that the Sharks took four points from the match, the Cheetahs none- tough for the willing enthusiasm of the Free Staters.
Tough, too, that just over 15 000 people came into that huge stadium, leaving it a good two-thirds empty. This after pleas for people to attend and help the Cheetahs retain their Super Rugby status, as clever men gather to pare Super Rugby down.
The Cheetahs kicked off and scored first. But in those first four minutes Kobus Reinach and Kobus van Wyk had good runs and then Ox Nche and then Kobus van Wyk again, but a Shark went offside and Fred Zeilinga, Glenwood Old Boy and former Shark, kicked a penalty goal. 3-0.
The lead lasted two minutes. The Sharks went on a running attack - wide right and then wide left where Lwazi Mvovo dummied and scored, sweeping around to the posts. 7-3 after six minutes. Bosch added to the score with the first of his four penalties. 10-3 after 15 minutes.
The game had just one bit of ugliness., when Oupa Mahoje grabbed Reinach and his arm went up and wrapped itself, snake-like, around the scrumhalf's neck. Reinach was angry and several players gathered. It was Mahoje's second high tackle and he was sent to the sin bin. It was not a good moment but he and Reinach had made up as the referee prepared to give them a ticking off.
The Cheetahs were down to 14 men and the Sharks used the subsequent penalty to kick out for a five-metre line-out. They bashed at the line and then went left on the small side where Van Wyk scored in the left corner. 15-3 after 26 minutes.
Down to 14 men, the Cheetahs were next to score. From a scrum on their left, Zeilinga ran at Bosch. He was brought down and Francois Venter got just behind the tackle, picked up, handed off two Sharks and scored near the posts. 15-10 after 29 minutes.
The Sharks played in phases but lost Coenie Oosthuizen to the sin bin when he was reckless at a tackle and Zeilinga goaled the penalty. 15-13 after 34 minutes.
Mahoje came back at this stage. The Cheetahs had won 10-5 while he was absent!
From just inside his 22, Bosch kicked a long kick down to his right. The ball flew, bounced and rolled but into touch-in-goal. That meant a scrum to the Cheetahs inside the Sharks 22 on their left. From the scrum Raymond Rhule came sweeping around from the left wing, sped through an outside gap, straightened and passed to JW Jonker on his right, and Jonker scored in the right corner. Zeilinga converted from touch, and the Cheetahs led 20-15, which was the half-time score.
At the start of the second half Garth April replaced Clément Poitrenaud at fullback.
Scrumhalf Shaun Venter broke and gave to Francois Venter who had nobody between him and the line but the fighting Reinach came from the side and felled the centre.
After Ruan Botha tackled Henco Venter before he got the ball, Zeilinga increased the Cheetahs' lead. 23-15 after 44 minutes.
It took the Sharks 12 minutes to get back into the lead.
April had a long counterattacking run to put the Sharks on the attack and suddenly Van Wyk was free to dawdle round to the posts for his second try. 23-22 after 47 minutes.
Lusanda Am seemed about to score but Nico Lee tackled him from behind and the Cheetahs won a turnover. But when they were penalised at a tackle, Bosch put the Sharks back in the lead. 25-23 after 56 minutes.
Then Sharks advanced through seven phases till they knocked on near the line. The momentum, was clearly with the visitors.
Clayton Blommetjies got into a tangle near the goal-line and took a Bosch kick into touch to give the Sharks a five-metre line-out. They formed a maul and drove it rapidly over the line for a try, credited to hardworking Jean-Luc du Preez. Bosch converted from far out. 32-23 with 13 minutes to play.
Two penalties at collapsed scrums enabled Bosch to take his side to 38-23 with six minutes to go.
Then with just over a minute left, Bosch kicked the ball down into the Cheetahs' 22 where Rhule got the bouncing ball and started running. He got over the half-way line on the Cheetahs left. From where he was tackled they went right and then came back left where Rhule was again involved. They continued down the left till Rhule came in at speed on a good angle to take a pass from Tian Meyer and burst through to run the twenty or so metres to score under the posts. He started it, he was involved in the middle of it and he finished it with a try.
There was time for the kick off and still time for the Sharks to be penalised twice. From a line-out, fuelled by the second penalty. A bundle of Cheetahs helped Paul Schoeman over the line but there were also Sharks in the bundled and Schoeman was held up, this ending the match.
Man of the Match: It would be satisfying to give the award to either Raymond Rhule or Francois Venter of the Cheetahs or Jean-Luc du Preez and Jaco Reinach of the Sharks but it would be silly not to award it to the most influential player on the field - Curwin Bosch who scored 18 points, kicked so effectively - except for one occasion - and did everything with obvious enjoyment.
For the Cheetahs:
Tries: Venter, Jonker, Rhule
Cons: Zeilinga 3
Pens: Zeilinga 3
For the Sharks:
Tries: Mvovo, Van Wyk 2, D du Preez
Cons: Bosch 3
Pens: Bosch 4
Yellow card: Teboho Mohoje (Cheetahs, 24 - foul play, high tackle), Coenie Oosthuizen (Sharks, 34 - foul play, high tackle), Ethienne Oosthuizen (Sharks, 80 - cynical foul, killing the ball)
Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 JW Jonker, 13 Francois Venter (captain), 12 Nico Lee, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Henco Venter, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Justin Basson, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche.
Replacements: 16 Elandré Huggett, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Carl Wegner, 20 Niell Jordaan, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Niel Marais, 23 Ryno Benjamin/Clinton Swart.
Sharks: 15 Clement Poitrenaud, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Tera Mtembu (captain), 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Jacques Vermeulen, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Stephan Lewies, 20 Daniel du Preez, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 Jeremy Ward, 23 Garth April.
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant referees: Jaco van Heerden, Lourens van der Merwe
TMO: Johan Greeff
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