Bloemfontein - Jean Pierre Coetzee grabbed a brace of tries as the Free State XV completed a hard-fought 19-13 (half-time 7-8) win over the Sharks XV in their Currie Cup qualifier in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
Right wing Coetzee scored two second-half tries as Free State snapped the Sharks XV’s two-match winning streak.
Both teams have had mixed fortunes this season with identical records of two wins and two losses in their first four games heading into the match, but the win ensured that the Free State XV improved their record to three wins from five games.
The first quarter of the game was cagey affair before the Sharks XV broke the deadlock courtesy of an 18th minute penalty from flyhalf Tristan Tedder.
Neither side was prepared to budge an inch on defence but the home team finally breached the Sharks XV defence five minutes before the end of the half when left wing Maphutha Dolo skated his way over before flyhalf Sias Ebersohn slotted the conversion to give the Free State XV a four point lead.
The Sharks XV was stung into action and they responded with a try of their own, two minutes before the break, when outside centre Nkululeko Marwana dotted down for an unconverted score as the visitors reached halftime holding a narrow 8-7 lead.
But the Sharks XV suffered a setback just three minutes after the restart when Marwana received a yellow card.
The Free State XV were quick to take advantage of their numerical advantage and they took the lead, in the 48th minute, when Coetzee went over for a converted try to make the score 14-8 in the home team’s favour.
The hosts increased their lead when Coetzee grabbed his second try, in the 60th minute.
But the Sharks XV narrowed the gap to six points three minutes later when replacement back Sandile Kubeka scored an unconverted try but the hosts held out to secure victory.
Free State XV
Try: Maphutha Dolo, Jean-Pierre Coetzee (2)
Conversions: Sias Ebersohn (2)
Try: Nkululeko Marwana, Sandile Kubeka
Penalty: Tristan Tedder