It was far from a vintage performance – and the Sharks again conceded soft points far too easily – but the nett result of tonight’s error-fest in Bloemfontein was an invaluable 18-15 win for the visitors.
After an early try to Dale Chadwick was disallowed for a very technical obstruction call, the Cheetahs pressed home their advantage, gaining momentum at the expense of the men in black and white. Tries to flank Lappies Labuschagne and wing Raymond Rhule followed in short order and with only a penalty and a cheeky drop goal to Fred Zeilinga in reply, the Sharks found themselves again trialling, by 6 points to 17.
To the Sharks’ credit, they rallied well as the opening half drew to an end, winning dominance at the set piece and earning a slew of penalties as a result. A succession of line-out drives, each illegally stopped, resulted in a yellow card for Cheetahs captain Boom Prinsloo. While the Sharks’ attack – even against 14 – remained laboured and ineffective, it fell to Jean Deysel to do the damage, barging over for a try on the stroke of half time. Zeilinga’s conversion brought the Sharks within just 2 points as they trailed 13-15 at the break.
The Sharks controlled territory better in the second period, but again failed to reap any rewards for their dominance. The Cheetahs turned over ball on a number of occasions, but they too were stunted on attack, with handling errors and poor options preventing them from scoring any further points in the match. It was eventually thanks to a moment of magic from replacement srumhalf Cobus Reinach that the Sharks prevailed – his half break led to the Louis Ludik try that proved the winning score.
Cheetahs (15): Tries Lappies Labuschagne, Raymond Rhule. Conversion Riaan Smit. Penalty Smit.
Sharks (18): Tries Jean Deysel, Louis Ludik. Conversion Zeilinga. Penalty Zeilinga. Drop-goal Zeilinga.