Cape Town - The Free State Cheetahs moved to the top of the log thanks a fine 38-30 (half-time 17-12) win over the Sharks in their Currie Cup Premier Division match at Growthpoint Kings Park in Durban on Saturday.
It was the Cheetahs first Currie Cup Premier Division win in Durban since 2009 and their victory was based on a powerful performance from their forwards with the visitors having the upper-hand in the scrums.
They ran in five tries to two with the Sharks kept in the game thanks to the boot of fullback Curwin Bosch, who kicked six penalties and a conversion.
The win means that the Cheetahs are still unbeaten in this year’s Currie Cup while the Sharks, who started the match at the top of the table, slipped to their second consecutive loss.
The Sharks opened the scoring thanks to an early penalty from Bosch.
But the Cheetahs’ forwards were turning in a dominant performance and they were awarded a penalty try after the Cheetahs destroyed a Sharks’ scrum five metres from the home team’s tryline.
The Sharks’ pack disintegrated and referee Rasta Rasivhenge had no hesitation in awarding the penalty try in the 11th minute.
The Sharks retook the lead as the first quarter ended thanks to two more Bosch penalties but they were battling to contain the rampant Cheetahs’ pack.
The Cheetahs regained the lead in the 28th minute when inside centre Michael van der Spuy charged down a clearance kick from his opposite number Andre Esterhuizen before regathering the ball before crashing over for a converted try.
The visitors extended their lead when another scrum penalty against the hosts saw flyhalf Fred Zeilinga slot a successful penalty kick four minutes before the end of the half.
The Sharks had the final say in the half as Bosch slotted a long-range penalty on the stroke of half-time as the Cheetahs went to the break holding a 17-12 lead.
The Sharks opened the scoring in the second half thanks to Bosch’s fifth successful penalty kick.
But the Cheetahs’ pack of forwards once again played their part as a powerful scrum saw the Sharks’ pack fall apart 10 metres from the own line with scrumhalf Tian Meyer kicking a loose ball forward before chasing the kick down to dot down for a converted try in the 48th minute.
Bosch narrowed the gap with yet another penalty, his sixth of the contest, but the Cheetahs struck back almost immediately when flank Uzair Cassiem crashed over for a converted try.
To make matters worse for the Sharks, flank Jean-Luc Du Preez was yellow carded for a dangerous tackle in the build-up to the try.
Despite being a man down the Sharks finally scored their first try when flank Francois Kleinhans muscled his way over from close range as the home team narrowed the gap to 31-25 after 60 minutes.
The Cheetahs reasserted their dominance less than two minutes later when replacement scrumhalf Shaun Venter stepped his way over for a try after a well-worked move from a lineout.
The hosts nabbed their second try when tighthead prop Thomas du Toit muscled his way over for a try in the 70th minute.
Sharks – Tries: Francois Kleinhans, Thomas du Toit; Conversion: Curwin Bosch; Penalties: Bosch (6).
Free State Cheetahs – Tries: Penalty Try, Michael van der Spuy, Tian Meyer, Uzair Cassiem, Shaun Venter; Conversions: Fred Zeilinga (5); Penalty: Zeilinga.