Sharks snatch late win
A late try from Meyer Bosman gave the Sharks a dramatic 34-32 bonus-point victory over the Free State Cheetahs in Durban on Saturday.
The home side trailed for just about the entire match, but fought back impressively, scoring four tries in the second half to snatch a tense victory at the death.
The Cheetahs took a healthy 15-point lead into the half-time break, but hardly saw any possession in the second half as the Sharks wore them down by forcing them to tackle, and they were ultimately left disappointed when Bosman's late effort denied them the spoils.
The visitors scored the only two tries of the first half just before the break to grab control of the match which had been fairly evenly poised to that point.
The Cheetahs had worked themselves into a 9-6 lead when a costly handling error from Sharks flank Jacques Botes handed the ever-alert Sarel Pretorius a try on a platter which was followed up almost immediately by a stunning counter-attacking effort from the quicksilver Raymond Rhule.
The young Cheetahs wing was put in some space on the outside after the ball had been ripped off Sharks scrumhalf Charl McLeod and Rhule pinned his ears back to give Cheetahs a commanding 21-6 lead at the break.
The visitors dominated in the tight exchanges and had the Sharks under serious pressure up front in the first half. The home side carried the ball up with purpose but could not find the finishing touch and were frustrated by the Cheetahs defence.
The Sharks had to respond and their attacking intent was clear in the second half as they refused opportunities to kick for poles and looked for tries instead.
That ambitious approach paid off as two tries from Odwa Ndungane put them right back in the mix but the Cheetahs managed to score ten points against the run of play when thanks to a try from Nico Scheepers and a drop-goal from flyhalf Ebersohn.
However, the home team's second-half dominance eventually proved too much for the Cheetahs' defence to take and after Paul Jordaan had made a great inital break into the 22 Bosman's late heroics sealed an emotional victory.
Man of the match: Sharks wing Odwa Ndungane made good use of his experience to score two vital tries in his team's second half fight back.
For the Sharks:
Tries: Viljoen, Ndungane 2, Bosman
Cons: Bosman 2
Pens: Bosman 2
For the Cheetahs:
Tries: Pretorius, Rhule, Scheepers
Pens: Scheepers 3
DG: S. Ebersohn 2
Sharks: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Odwa Ndungane , 13 Paul Jordaan , 12 Meyer Bosman , 11 S'bura Sithole, 10 Riaan Viljoen, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel, 7 Jean Deysel (captain), 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Anton Bresler, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Monde Hadebe, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Replacements: 16 Pieter Dixon, 17 Julian Redelinghuys, 18 Jandré Marais, 19 Francois Kleinhans, 20 Cobus Reinach, 21 Marius Joubert, 22 Rosko Specman.
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Nico Scheepers, 13 Robert Ebersohn (captain), 12 Barry Geel, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Sis Ebersohn, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Lucas Floors, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Frans Viljoen, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Hercu Liebenberg, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Elandré Huggett, 17 Ross Geldenhuys, 18 Waltie Vermeulen, 19 Davon Raubenheimer, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Phillip Snyman, 22 Ryno Benjamin.
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant referees: Jason Jaftha, Reuben Rossouw