Bloemfontein - Springbok flyhalf Patrick Lambie produced a stellar kicking performance, lifting the Sharks to a 29-22 victory in their opening Super Rugby clash of the season against the Cheetahs on Saturday.
Lambie succeeded with seven out of seven kicks and completely overshadowed his Cheetahs counterpart Johan Goosen. The latter returned after an absence of four months due to injury, but his first game this season was all but spectacular.
Goosen failed with kicks at goal and his positional play was also left wanting.
The Cheetahs staged a ferocious fightback near the end, but the Sharks held on to record their first win of the campaign.
VIDEO: Cheetahs v Sharks, highlights
The visitors started at a frantic pace and controlled most of the possession in the first couple of minutes.
The Sharks were bullying the Cheetahs off the ball at the breakdown area, but it was the hosts who drew first blood via flanker Philip van der Walt. The Cheetahs put together a rolling maul from a lineout and Van der Walt burst over with his team-mates on his back.
The Sharks continued to put the Cheetahs defence to the test and got some useful possession from the scrums, but initial attacks were botched by bad decision making and forward passes.
The coastal outfit finally got on the board when Lambie kicked a penalty after Cheetahs flanker Frans Viljoen infringed at the ruck.
The flyhalf kicked another couple of penalties shortly after, with the Cheetahs penalised for hands in the ruck on their own goalline.
Sharks winger Lwazi Mvovo scored his side's first try in the 30th minute when he pounced on a ball tapped from the visitors' lineout and ran through to touch down under the uprights. Lambie converted to give the visitors a 16-5 half-time lead.
Goosen tried to settle things down with a penalty in the second period, but he pulled the attempt to the left.
The Sharks looked better on the attack and flanker Marcell Coetzee scored a try from a rolling maul in the 46th minute, which Lambie converted.
Lambie kicked another penalty shortly after to give the Sharks a comfortable 26-5 cushion.
The Cheetahs continued to fight and put together some attacking phases of play, with flanker Lappies Labuschagne scoring in the corner. Goosen converted to leave them 14 points adrift.
Centre Johann Sadie reduced the deficit to just seven points when he broke the Sharks defence and dove over in the corner, with Goosen again converting.
The Cheetahs' tails were up and they put the Sharks under immense pressure, and Goosen kicked a penalty in the 67th minute to bring his side within four points.
Lambie, however, answered in kind to regain a seven-point advantage and secure the win.
Tries: Philip Van der Walt, Lappies Labuschagne and Johann Sadie
Conversions: Johan Goosen (2)
Tries: Lwazi Mvovo, Marcell Coetzee
Conversions: Patrick Lambie (2)
Penaties: Lambie (5)
15. Hennie Daniller, 14. Willie le Roux, 13. Johann Sadie, 12. Robert Ebersohn, 11. Raymond Rhule, 10. Johan Goosen, 9. Piet van Zyl, 8. Philip van der Walt, 7. Lappies Labuschagne, 6. Frans Viljoen, 5. Francois Uys, 4. Lood de Jager, 3. Lourens Adriaanse, 2. Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1. Trevor Nyakane
Substitutes: 16. Ryno Barnes, 17. Coenie Oosthuizen, 18. Waltie Vermeulen, 19. Boom Prinsloo, 20 Sarel Pretorius, 21. Elgar Watts, 22. Ryno Benjamin
15. Louis Ludik, 14. JP Pietersen, 13. Paul Jordaan 12. Francois Steyn (captain), 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Patrick Lambie, 9. Cobus Reinach, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7. Marcell Coetzee, 6. Jacques Botes, 5. Franco van der Merwe, 4. Anton Bresler, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Craig Burden, 1. Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16. Kyle Cooper, 17. Wiehahn Herbst, 18. Pieter-Steph du Toit, 19. Jean Deysel, 20. Charl McLeod, 21. Meyer Bosman, 22. Odwa Ndungane