Sharks victorious in Bloem
Bloemfontein - The Sharks secured a scrappy 23-18 Vodacom Super Rugby victory over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday to move back into contention for a place in the upcoming playoffs.
Two second half tries by wings Lwazi Mvovo and JP Pietersen saw the coastal side move past the Bulls and Waratahs on the competition’s log standings on 51 points in fifth place behind the Crusaders.
In a typically tough tussle between two arch rivals, it was clear early on that both sides had made some strategic adjustments to their game plans.
Sharks flyhalf Patrick Lambie’s sneaky short kick-off at the start of the match set the tone for what was to come as he tried to catch his hosts off-guard.
The Sharks were, however, the stunned team as the Cheetahs decided not deploy eighthman Ashley Johnson as a battering ram and instead used him as a decoy runner.
Despite struggling to find their way into Cheetahs territory, the Sharks opened the scoring with a penalty conversion by flyhalf Patrick Lambie.
Having earlier missed a kick at goal, the Free State squad responded with a try created by wing Riaan Viljoen who played brilliantly throughout.
Viljoen ran in a poorly directed line clearance and found space in midfield before off-loading to Johnson who flicked the ball on to try scoring specialist Sarel Pretorius.
Although the conversion attempt struck the upright, Cheetah spirits remained high for the rest of the first half.
Two breakdown infringements by Springbok hooker Bismarck du Plessis ensured that the home side enjoyed a 11-6 lead at the break.
As the second stanza got underway, the Sharks wasted no time in sending their surplus stars on to counter threats from Johnson, Pretorius and the Ebersohn twins were posing on the night.
Young flank Johan Wessels was another dangerous man to contend with at the fiercely contested breakdowns.
After soaking up the pressure the Sharks managed to build some momentum, but were still making the most tackles.
Pietersen’s try put the Sharks 12 points clear of the Cheetahs who continued to fight to the final whistle.
Naka Drotske’s men, against all odds, nearly managed to cause the upset of the weekend but even with the Sharks reduced to 13-men through two yellow-cards, could only manage one try coming from Man-of-the-Match Riaan Viljoen.
15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Riaan Viljoen, 13 Robert
Ebersohn, 12 Corne Uys, 11 Philip Snyman, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Sarel
Pretorius, 8 Davon Raubenheimer, 7 Ashley Johnson, 6 Johan Wessels, 5
Martin Muller, 4 Francois Uys, 3 WP Nel, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1
Substitutes: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Lourens
Adriaanse, 18 Izak van der Westhuizen, 19 Pieter Myburgh, 20 Tewis de
Bruyn, 21 Naas Olivier, 22 Riaan Smit
Ludik, 14. JP Pietersen, 13. Stefan Terblanche, 12. Meyer Bosman, 11.
Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Patrick Lambie, 9. Charl McLeod, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7.
Willem Alberts, 6. Keegan Daniel, 5. Gerhard Mostert, 4. Steven Sykes,
3. Eugene van Staden, 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 1. John Smit (captain)
16. Tendai Mtawarira, 17. Wiehahn Herbst, 18. Alistair Hargreaves, 19.
Jacques Botes, 20. Frederic Michalak, 21. Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 22.