Cheetahs race to the top
The Cheetahs outscored the Sharks by five tries to two in a game where the home team relied mainly on the boot of young fullback Curwin Bosch to stay in touch.
The Cheetahs continued to employ their expansive strategy – which is far from being refined, but certainly entertaining to watch.
It was the Cheetahs first Currie Cup win in Durban since 2009 and their victory was based on a powerful performance from their forwards – with the visitors having the upper-hand in the scrums.
The Sharks opened the scoring thanks to an early penalty from Bosch.
But the Cheetahs' forwards were turning in a dominant performance and they were awarded a penalty try after the Cheetahs destroyed a Sharks' scrum five metres from the home team's tryline.
The Sharks' pack disintegrated and referee Rasta Rasivhenge had no hesitation in awarding the penalty try in the 11th minute.
The Sharks retook the lead as the first quarter ended thanks to two more Bosch penalties but the Cheetahs regained the lead in the 28th minute when inside centre Michael van der Spuy charged down a clearance kick from his opposite number Andre Esterhuizen before regathering the ball before crashing over for a converted try.
The visitors extended their lead when another scrum penalty against the hosts saw flyhalf Fred Zeilinga slot a successful penalty kick four minutes before the end of the half.
The Sharks had the final say in the half as Bosch slotted a long-range penalty on the stroke of half-time.
The Sharks opened the scoring in the second half thanks to Bosch's fifth successful penalty kick.
But the Cheetahs' pack of forwards once again played their part as a powerful scrum saw the Sharks' pack fall apart 10 metres from the own line with scrumhalf Tian Meyer kicking a loose ball forward before chasing the kick down to dot down for a converted try in the 48th minute.
Bosch narrowed the gap with yet another penalty, his sixth of the contest, but the Cheetahs struck back almost immediately when flank Uzair Cassiem crashed over for a converted try.
To make matters worse for the Sharks, flank Jean-Luc Du Preez was yellow carded for a dangerous tackle in the build-up to the try.
Despite being a man down the Sharks finally scored their first try when flank Francois Kleinhans muscled his way over from close range as the home team narrowed the gap to 31-25 after 60 minutes.
The Cheetahs reasserted their dominance less than two minutes later when replacement scrumhalf Shaun Venter stepped his way over for a try after a well-worked move from a line-out.
The hosts nabbed their second try when tighthead prop Thomas du Toit powered his way over for a try in the 70th minute.
For the Sharks:
Tries:Kleinhans, Du Toit
Pens: Bosch 6
For the Cheetahs:
Tries:Penalty try, Van der Spuy, Meyer, Cassiem, Venter
Cons: Zeilinga 5
Yellow card: Jean-Luc du Preez (Sharks, 53 – foul play, dangerous tackle)
Sharks: 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Sibusiso Sithole, 10 Inny-Christian Radebe, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Philip van der Walt (captain), 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Francois Kleinhans, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Juan Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Mahlatse Ralepelle, 17 John-Hubert Meyer, 18 Jean Droste, 19 Khaya Majola, 20 Michael Claassens, 21 Wandile Mjekevu, 22 Rhyno Smith..
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Ryno Benjamin, 13 Nico Lee, 12 William Small-Smith, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Tian Meyer (captain), 8 Henco Venter, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Torsten Van Jaarsveld, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche.
Replacements: 16 Jacques Du Toit, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Justin Basson, 19 Niell Jordaan, 20 Shaun Venter, 21 Niel Marais, 22 Michael van der Spuy.
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant referees: AJ Jacobs, Rodney Boneparte
TMO: Marius Jonker