In yet another flawless display of winning rugby, the Sharks won all three games against the visiting Cheetahs at ABSA Stadium in Durban this afternoon.
The under 19 and under 21 teams both won their games well (37-18 and 51-25 respectively), but it was the performance of the senior Sharks, in their unfamiliar black and pink strip, that really stole the show. Back to the style of rugby that saw them go unbeaten for 7 games earlier in the year, the Sharks controlled possession well and kept the Cheetahs at bay with huge defence when necessary to emerge 30-14 victors. More importantly, they scooped a valuable bonus point for scoring 4 tries.
After a nervous start, in a game that referee Pro Legoete did his utmost to blow to death, the Sharks gradually took the first half by the scruff of the neck and turned 18-9 up, thanks to tries by Willem Alberts and Odwa Ndungane. The first came after umpteen superb phases of controlled possession, with flyhalf Pat Lambie spinning out a beautiful pass to the rampaging blindside flank, who barged over right under the sticks. The Cheetahs stayed in touch – and even retook the lead – courtesy of two penalties after that, before Ryan Kankowsi scythed off the base of a strong Sharks scrum to feed Ndungane for the second score. The Sharks dominated the scrum contest in the first half, with underrated loosehead Pat Cilliers demolishing his opposite number Kobus Calldo to the extent that the latter was replaced before half time.
The Cheetahs came back well after half time and scored a quick try through lock forward Francois Uys after sustained pressure on the Sharks line. Louis Strydom’s successful conversion narrowed the gap to two points and the visitors blew a golden opportunity to retake the lead when scrumhalf Tewis de Bruyn opted to run a kickable penalty shortly thereafter. The home side took full advantage of the let-off and again proceeded to dominate the possession stakes against a game Cheetahs side who competed furiously at every breakdown. Charl McLeod finally broke the deadlock when he tried de Bruyn’s own trick – in this case, successfully – scampering over from a well-taken tap penalty about 20 metres out. Kankowski drove the final nail into the coffin when he broke from a 75th minute scrum and put replacement halfback Rory Kockott over for the bonus point try.
For the Sharks, Kankowski and Willem Alberts were again the standouts in a forward pack that punched weigh above their weight all afternoon. Cilliers, Eugene van Staden and Alistair Hargreaves were other players to put in really big performances against a Cheetahs 8 that probably played below their potential for the majority of the game. Lambie was cool under pressure, with Stefan Terblanche and Louis Ludik probably the most effective of the backs on the day.
The win maintains the Sharks’ 8-point buffer at the top of the Currie Cup log, with a tricky away fixture against the Lions coming up next weekend.
Sharks (30): Tries by Alberts, Ndungane, McLeod and Kockott. 2 penalties and 2 conversions by Lambie
Cheetahs (16): Try by Francois Uys. Conversion and 2 penalties by Louis Strydom. Penalty by Meyer Bosman