The Free State Cheetahs scored a 38-30 bonus-point win against the Sharks in Durban on Saturday to move to the top of the Currie Cup log, reports JON CARDINELLI.
The Cheetahs had the Sharks on the ropes for much of the first stanza. If not for Curwin Bosch's five penalty goals, the Sharks would have had zero to show for their efforts. The half-time scoreline of 17-15 (to the Cheetahs) flattered the hosts.
The Cheetahs continued to pressure the Sharks after the break. Free State captain Tian Meyer scored an important try after the ball bounced out of the back of a retreating Sharks scrum.
Uzair Cassiem scored Free State's fourth try in the 52nd minute, and ensured that the visitors banked the bonus point. The Sharks were dealt a further blow when flanker Jean-Luc du Preez was shown a yellow card for cynical play.
Despite being one man short, the Sharks rallied to score their first try through Francois Kleinhans. Bosch completed the conversion to reduce the deficit to six points with 20 minutes remaining.
The Cheetahs restored their advantage almost immediately. A well-worked lineout move resulted in a try for replacement scrumhalf Shaun Venter. It wasn't the first time in the match that the Sharks had conceded points soon after scoring at the other end of the park.
The Sharks added a second try to their tally in the 70th minute. On this occasion, however, Bosch hit the upright with his conversion attempt. It proved a costly mistake, as the Sharks finished eight points behind the Cheetahs and did not receive a losing bonus point.
The result sees the Cheetahs extending their unbeaten run in 2016 to five matches.
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.
Sharks – 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 S’bura Sithole, 10 Inny Radebe, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Philip van der Walt (c), 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Francois Kleinhans, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Juan Schoeman.
Subs: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 John-Hubert Meyer, 18 Stephan Lewies, 19 Khaya Majola, 20 Michael Claassens, 21 Wandile Mjekevu, 22 Rhyno Smith.
Free State Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Rayno Benjamin, 13 Nico Lee, 12 Michael van der Spuy, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Tian Meyer (c), 8 Henco Venter, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Justin Basson, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Ox Nche.
Subs: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Armandt Koster, 19 Niel Jordaan, 20 Shaun Venter, 21 Niel Marais, 22 William Small-Smith.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images