Sharks surge to the top
Keegan Daniel (Gallo Images)
Bloemfontein - The Sharks climbed to the top of the Currie Cup table, holding off the Free State Cheetahs for a 37-30 (half-time 15-10) win at the Free State Stadium on Saturday night.
The hosts came out flying from the kick-off and put the Sharks under immense pressure.
The visitors subsequently infringed and Cheetahs winger Nico Scheepers kicked his side's first penalty as early as the seventh minute.
Building momentum, fellow wing Raymond Rhule, who had already had the Sharks up in arms in the opening minutes, broke through the visiting side's defence for the first try of the match, with Scheepers converting.
The Sharks, however, woke from their slumber, advancing deep into the Cheetahs half, gaining a penalty at the breakdown which flyhalf Meyer Bosman
slotted over with ease.
Playing some attacking rugby of their own as they tried to close the gap, Sharks winger Odwa Ndugane scored the Durban side's first five-pointer from a move he started. Bosman converted to lock the scores at 10 points each.
The visitors started to seize control and Ndugane scored his second try of the evening six minutes from half-time, though Bosman could not convert.
The Sharks came out firing in the second half and scored their third try shortly after the kick-off.
Centre Paul Jordaan jogged over to jot down under the crossbar after Ndugane set the attack in motion. Bosman converted to put the Cheetahs on the back foot early in the second stanza.
Scheepers kicked another penalty to reduce the deficit, but the hosts kept infringing and Bosman capitalised.
The Bloemfontein-based side got back within striking distance after scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius
burst over in the 55th minute, with Scheepers converting to leave the Cheetahs a mere five points shy.
Trying to escape the relegation zone, the home side threw everything at the Sharks in the last 15 minutes and Scheepers kicked a penalty to bring them within two points.
The Sharks put the result beyond doubt, however, when flanker Jacques Botes scored from a rolling maul, to secure a bonus point, and replacement hooker Kyle Cooper scored another five-pointer to draw them clear.
Rhule scored his second try in the dying minutes to give the Cheetahs a much needed bonus point, lifting them from the bottom of the table.Scorers:Free State:
Tries: Raymond Rhule (2), Sarel Pretorius
Conversions: Nico Scheepers (3)
Penalties: Scheepers (3)Sharks:
Tries: Odwa Ndungane
(2), Paul Jordaan, Jacques Botes and Kyle Cooper.
Conversions: Meyer Bosman
Penalties: Bosman (2)Teams:Free State Cheetahs:
15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Nico Scheepers, 13 Robert Ebersohn (captain), 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Sarel Pretorius
, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Francois Uys, 6 Lappies Labuschagne, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Hercu Liebenberg, 1 Marcel van der Merwe.
Substitutes: 16 AJ le Roux, 17 Brummer Badenhorst, 18 Waltie Vermeulen, 19 Davon Raubenheimer, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Philip Snyman, 22 Rayno Benjamin.Sharks:
15 Louis Ludik, 14 Odwa Ndungane
, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Tim Whitehead, 11 JP Pietersen
, 10 Meyer Bosman
, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel
(captain), 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Anton Bresler, 4 Jandre Marais, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Pieter Dixon, 1 Dale Chadwick
Substitutes: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Peet Marais, 19 Lubabalo Mtembu, 20 Cobus Reinach, 21 Riaan Viljoen, 22 S'bura Sithole