The Cheetahs claimed a four-try bonus point as they defeated the Sharks 35-29 at Kings Park on Saturday, writes BRENTON CHELIN.
The opening South African derby of the Vodacom Super Rugby season didn't disappoint. There was entertainment aplenty as both sides looked to keep ball in hand, with varying degrees of success. In the end, though, it was the Cheetahs who deservedly triumphed in seasonably hot and humid conditions in Durban.
Of concern from a Springbok perspective were the injuries to Lood de Jager and Beast Mtawarira. De Jager lasted just 10 minutes before heading to hospital with a suspected broken elbow, while Mtawarira limped off with a calf tear in the first half. Throw in Bismarck du Plessis's 11th-hour withdrawal from a shoulder injury, and Heyneke Meyer will already be wondering who might be available by the time the World Cup rolls around later this year.
On a more positive note for the Boks, Pat Lambie was once again calm and assertive from the flyhalf position, while Pieter-Steph du Toit got through a solid 80 minutes. Lambie, captain on the day, claimed 19 points with the boot, and finished off a great set-piece try for the Sharks during a frenetic first half.
The Cheetahs weren't without some strong performances of their own. Coenie Oosthuizen performed admirably at tighthead prop, while next to him, Torsten van Jaarsveld made sure Adriaan Strauss's presence wasn't missed too badly.
Oosthuizen showed why he remains such a dangerous prospect in the loose, as he punched a hole in the Sharks defence, before Willie le Roux found Jean Cook out wide for the game's opening try. The Cheetahs' second came after an inexplicable kick from Kyle Cooper, with Willie Britz and Sarel Pretorius combining to send Francois Venter over. The visitors were full value for their 20-16 half-time lead.
Pietersen extended that lead at the start of the second half, before two Lambie penalties brought the Sharks within one point. However, the Cheetahs responded with two tries in five minutes through replacements Boom Prinsloo and Carl Wegner to open up a 13-point lead with 10 minutes remaining.
There was still time for the Sharks to grab a superb try through Lwazi Mvovo to set up a grandstand finish. Marcell Coetzee went close in the 79th minute, but the TMO ruled he had lost control of the ball and the Cheetahs held on to claim a dramatic victory.
Sharks – Tries: Pat Lambie, Lwazi Mvovo. Conversions: Lambie (2). Penalties: Lambie (5).
Cheetahs – Tries: Jean Cook, Michael van der Spuy, Boom Prinsloo, Carl Wegner. Conversions: Joe Pietersen (2), Willie du Plessis. Penalties: Pietersen (3).
Sharks – 15 SP Marais, 14 S’bura Sithole, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Heimar Williams, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Tera Mtembu, 7 Renaldo Bothma, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Mouritz Botha, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Kyle Cooper (c), 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Monde Hadebe, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Matt Stevens, 19 Marco Wentzel, 20 Jean Deysel, 21 Conrad Hoffmann, 22 Fred Zeilinga, 23 Odwa Ndungane.
Cheetahs – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Clayton Blommetjies, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Michael van der Spuy, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Joe Pietersen, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Jean Cook, 5 Francois Uys (c), 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Danie Minnie.
Subs: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 BG Uys, 18 Maks van Dyk, 19 Carl Wegner, 20 Boom Prinsloo, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Willie du Plessis, 23 Cornal Hendricks.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images