The Sharks secured a crucial 33-14 bonus-point victory over the Cheetahs at Kings Park in the 2008 Super 14, recalls JON CARDINELLI.
It was by no means a polished performance, but coach Dick Muir would have breathed a little easier knowing the Sharks were one result away from a place in the semi-finals. The Cheetahs battled bravely and displayed a lot of attacking intent, but poor finishing also robbed them of a few scores.
Flyhalf Conrad Barnard missed an early opportunity when his penalty attempt struck the post. The hosts had the early momentum but some great defence by the Sharks forced an error and No 8 Ryan Kankowski hacked the loose ball towards the opposition tryline. Up against Jongi Nokwe, Kankowski matched the Cheetahs winger for pace before the ball took an awkward bounce and landed in the grateful grasp of Odwa Ndungane. He dotted down, but the TMO ruled Kankowski had shoved Nokwe. While true, this action looked to have no bearing on play.
The second controversial moment arrived when Cheetahs lock Rory Duncan was sin-binned by referee Willie Roos for his second high tackle after 12 minutes. Both calls were marginal, and he certainly didn’t deserve to be sidelined. This proved a big call, as the Sharks pack demolished their Cheetahs counterparts who were minus 120kg of Duncan bulk.
The Sharks lineout was poor for the most part, but a decision to kick for the touchline with Duncan in the dock bore fruit. The rolling maul was beautifully executed, and Jacques Botes merely had to flop over for his first try.
Another lineout set the platform for Botes’s second, and at 14-0, the Sharks were well placed to pick up the bonus point.
But some strange tactics towards the end of the half ultimately resulted in a Cheetahs try. Both Ruan Pienaar and Frans Steyn failed with drop-goal attempts during a period where they needed to control possession and remain in opposition territory. The Cheetahs wrested back the initiative with fullback Hennie Daniller providing the creative spark. Heinrich Brüssow showed some phenomenal feet to step several defenders, and when the ball shifted to captain Juan Smith he displayed good vision to send it out to Nokwe. Barnard converted Nokwe’s sixth try of the season and the Cheetahs had closed the gap to seven points.
Steyn was a handful for the shaky Cheetahs defence, but it was his distribution that proved most telling at the beginning of the second period. A beautiful floated pass to JP Pietersen saw the Cheetahs stretched, and when they managed to haul the winger in Botes was on hand to receive the offload and claim his hat-trick.
The Cheetahs never gave up, but failed to make any significant inroads into a resolute Sharks defence. Repelling the Cheetahs surge was deemed to be illegal at one point and Albert van den Berg was shown yellow for slowing the ball down.
The belligerent ball-carries of Smith, hooker Adriaan Strauss and No 8 Duane Vermeulen continued to test the men in black and white. The Cheetahs regularly conceded possession after three or four phases, but it was Meyer Bosman who benefited from a Sharks lapse to score the Cheetahs’ second try. Kankowski failed to play the ball at a ruck and Bosman swooped, surged and scored under the posts. Replacement Tewis de Buyn goaled the conversion to set the scene for a thrilling final 15 minutes.
Smith made a great break in the 73rd minute but took the wrong option in putting ball to boot. The Cheetahs’ opportunity to win this match evaported with this decision, and the Sharks immediately broke some tired tackle attempts to set up a final assault from the Cheetahs’ 22.
A lapse in defence eventually allowed Ndungane to fly through and score under the posts. Ndungane picked up his second a moment later after supporting a typical Kankowski break.
The Sharks went on to beat the Chiefs 47-25 the following week to finish third on the Super 14 log and qualify for a semi-final against the Waratahs in Sydney, which they lost 28-13.
The Cheetahs ended 13th on the log.
Sharks – Tries: Jacques Botes (3), Odwa Ndungane (2). Conversions: Rory Kockott (4).
Cheetahs – Tries: Jongi Nokwe, Meyer Bosman. Conversions: Conrad Barnard, Tewis de Bruyn.
Sharks – 15 Stefan Terblanche, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Adrian Jacobs, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Ruan Pienaar, 9 Rory Kockott, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 AJ Venter (c), 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Johan Ackermann, 4 Albert van den Berg, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Jannie du Plessis, 18 Steven Sykes, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Keegan Daniel, 21 Brad Barritt, 22 Waylon Murray.
Cheetahs – 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Eddie Fredericks, 13 JW Jonker, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Jongi Nokwe, 10 Conrad Barnard, 9 Noel Oelschig, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Juan Smith (c), 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Barend Pieterse, 4 Rory Duncan, 3 CJ van der Linde, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Wian du Preez.
Subs: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Bees Roux, 18 David de Villiers, 19 Hendro Scholtz, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Hendrik Meyer, 22 Bevin Fortuin.
Photo: Duif du Toit/Gallo Images