Sharks surge past Cheetahs
Beast Mtawarira (Gallo Images)
Bloemfontein -French fly half Frederik Michalak produced an impressive tally of 19 points to lead the Sharks to a 34-20 victory over the Cheetahs in their Super Rugby encounter in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
Michalak, who came into the starting line up at short notice after Patrick Lambie withdrew late on Friday with flu, scored a try, kicked three conversions and a penalty to help his side gain much-needed momentum.
With the victory, the Sharks are still in the running to play in the knock out stages, achieving full points with a stylish display of running rugby.
The Cheetahs had some good periods of attacking play, but never looked like the same side which almost caused an upset against the Stormers the previous week.
Sharks winger JP Pietersen ran the first try for the Sharks, in the third minute.
Springbok hooker Bismarck du Plessis showed his class, bumping off one Cheetahs' defender after another before Pietersen finished off in the corner.
Michalak converted to help put his team on the front foot.
The Cheetahs replied with some exiting running rugby of their own, with Springbok hooker and captain Adriaan Strauss heavily involved in the build-up to a converted penalty by flyhalf Riaan Smit.
Smit kicked another penalty in the 29th minute to bring his team within one point of the visitors.
From the resulting kick off, Cheetahs centre Robert Ebersohn cut through the visitors' defence and hooker Strauss powered over for the home side's first five pointer after an impressive 16 phases of attacking play.
That enticed the Cheetahs to start running from deep in their own half, but it all went terribly wrong when Sharks full back Riaan Viljoen answered back with an up-and-under from his counterpart Hennie Daniller's clearing kick.
Michalak followed up and grabbed a wayward bounce to score and convert for the lead.
Smit kicked another penalty shortly before half time to level the scores on 14 points each, but it was the Sharks flair that had the last say before the break.
The visitors decided to take the quick tap for a penalty rather than kick at goal and they stretched the Cheetahs' defence to allow winger Lwazi Mvovo to add another try to the two he had scored last week against the Western Force.
The Cheetahs' defence was visibly improved in the second stanza but an infringement at the break down allowed Michalak his first penalty.
Sharks hooker Du Plessis and prop Tendai "Beast" Mtawarira pitched with some good runs, but ultimately it was the Frenchman's boot that left the home side struggling.
Du Plessis received a yellow card in the 53rd minute for using only his shoulder in a tackle and replacement flyhalf Sias Ebersohn slotted home the penalty.
Without Du Plessis to bolster the scrums, the Sharks were penalised for collapsing and Ebersohn kicked another screamer through the uprights.
Michalak added another penalty to his tally in the 67th minute and, five minutes later, Mvovo scored their converted bonus point try.
Points scorers: Sharks: Tries: JP Pietersen, Frederik Michalak, Lwazi Mvovo, Meyer Bosman. Conversions: Frederik Michalak (4). Penalties: Frederik Michalak (2).
Cheetahs Tries: Adriaan Strauss. Penalties: Riaan Smit (3), Sias Ebersohn (2).
Try: Adriaan Strauss
Pens: Smit 3, S Ebersohn 2
Tries: Pietersen, Michalak, Mvovo, Bosman
Cons: Michalak 4
Pens: Michalak 2
Yellow card: Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks, 53 - foul play, illegal shoulder charge)
Cheetahs – 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Cameron Jacobs, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Willie le Roux, 10 Riaan Smit, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Justin Downey, 6 Heinrich Brussouw, 5 George Earle, 4 Izak van der Westhuizen, 3 WP Nel, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Subs: 16 Hercu Liebenberg, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Andries Ferreira, 19 Ashley Johnson, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 Philip Snyman.
Sharks – 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Tim Whitehead, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Frederic Michalak, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel (c), 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Anton Bresler, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Willem Alberts, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Ryan Kankowski, 21 Meyer Bosman, 22 Odwa Ndungane.