A late Fred Zeilinga penalty lifted the Sharks to a 19-16 win over the Free State Cheetahs in Durban on Saturday. BRENTON CHELIN reports.
The penalty, coming in the 76th minute, would get the Sharks out of jail in a match they barely deserved to win. It was an error-strewn match that only really created any sense of excitement in the dying minutes.
The match started well enough, with both teams showing their willingness to attack early on, even if their execution didn't match their intent.
It took 20 minutes for the first points to be scored, a Willie du Plessis penalty after the Sharks infringed at the breakdown. Du Plessis would double the lead shortly thereafter, slotting another penalty as the Sharks held council under the posts.
The words seemed to fall on deaf ears, as the Cheetahs moved into double figures with a try from the kick-off. Sarel Pretorius dummied before darting away upfield. His perfectly timed pass found Clayton Blommetjies, who put boot to ball before regathering and diving over for a well-worked try.
Fred Zeilinga got the Sharks on the board in the 31st minute, as they headed into the break trailing 13-3.
Zeilinga and Du Plessis traded penalties at the start of the second half, before the game descended into a kicking contest. It all made for rather tedious viewing, with Sharks coach Brad Macleod-Henderson calling on his bench to alter the course of proceedings.
Zeilinga kept the scoreboard ticking over with another penalty before the Sharks finally managed to break down the Cheetahs defence. Their try would come from a set-piece move, after some neat interplay in midfield between Zeilinga and replacement scrumhalf Conrad Hoffmann. The latter found Tonderai Chavanga, who scythed through as the Sharks drew level.
The Sharks would hit the front after the Cheetahs were penalised at scrum time and Zeilinga kicked what turned out to be the match-winning penalty.
A last-gasp Cheetahs attack led to a dramatic finish as Kevin Stevens came up just short of the tryline. From the ensuing scrum the Cheetahs won a tighthead and spread the ball wide before Odwa Ndungane bundled Raymond Rhule into touch to bring the game to an end.
The Sharks maintained their 100% record, but won't be happy with their overall performance.
Sharks – Try: Tonderai Chavanga. Conversion: Fred Zeilinga. Penalties: Zeilinga (4).
Free State Cheetahs – Try: Clayton Blommetjies. Conversion: Willie du Plessis. Penalties: Du Plessis (3)
Sharks – 15 SP Marais, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 S'bura Sithole, 12 Paul Jordaan, 11 Tonderai Chavhanga, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Cameron Wright, 8 Tera Mtembu (c), 7 Francois Kleinhans, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Marco Wentzel, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Subs: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Johan Meyer, 20 Conrad Hoffmann, 21 Heimar Williams, 22 Lionel Cronje.
Free State Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Rayno Benjamin, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Joubert Engelbrecht, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Willie du Plessis, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Jean Cook, 7 Neil Claassen, 6 Tienie Burger, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Dolph Botha, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld (c), 1 Kevin Stevens.
Subs: 16 AJ le Roux, 17 George Marich, 18 Heno Venter, 19 Vincent Jobo, 20 Shaun Venter, 21 Pieter-Steyn de Wet, 22 JP du Plessis.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images