Johannesburg - An unhappy 24 hours for the Cheetahs was completed on Saturday when they fell 45-15 away to the Sharks in a top-of-the-table Currie Cup clash.
Updated Currie Cup log
On Friday, the Bloemfontein-based outfit made a losing debut in the expanded PRO14 competition, conceding six tries when going down 42-19 to Ulster in Belfast.
Forced to field two teams each weekend until October, when the Currie Cup ends, Cheetahs sent their best players to Europe for two fixtures, the second being against Munster next weekend.
The rest of the 50-plus squad squared up against the Sharks in the Currie Cup and unsurprisingly came off second best at Kings Park in Durban.
After a promising opening quarter, which included a 25-phase attack, the Cheetahs second-stringers conceded four tries to trail 24-3 at half-time.
The visitors did score two second-half tries, one from Nigeria-born wing Luther Obi, but the result was never in doubt and a bonus-point win took the Sharks four points clear at the top.
Wing and man-of-the-match award winner Sibusiso Nkosi scored two tries for Sharks, taking his season tally to six.
He tops the try-scorers chart after eight rounds with two other wings, Cheetah Makazole Mapimpi and Seabelo Senatla from Western Province.
Struggling former champions, the Blue Bulls and the Golden Lions won narrowly to get back into contention for top-four finishes and semi-finals places.
Fullback Manie Libbok, a late call-up for the injured Warrick Gelant, starred for Bulls in a 44-42 win over Griquas and became only the second scorer of a hat-trick this season.
Victory at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria marked a timely turnaround for the 22-time champions after a humiliating 36-point thrashing at the Pumas last weekend.
Former New Zealand coach John Mitchell responded to the drubbing by dropping nine of the team.
Griquas outscored Bulls by six tries to five, but lost for the third time this season when scoring more than 40 points.
A second-minute try from veteran loose forward and former Springbok Ryan Kankowski for the Lions set in motion a thrilling 29-28 victory against the Pumas at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.
The home team changed ends with a 22-14 lead that was trimmed to a single point with 12 minutes left when flyhalf Kobus Marais converted a Ruwellyn Isbell try.
But Pumas lock Hugo Kloppers handicapped his side by getting yellow-carded seven minutes from time for a professional foul.
Success snapped a four-match losing streak for the Lions and although they remain last, only three points separate them from the third-placed Blue Bulls.
The Sharks have 29 points, title-holders the Cheetahs 25, the Blue Bulls 18, record 33-time champions Western Province and the Pumas 17, Griquas 16 and Golden Lions 15.