The Sharks resigned the Free State Cheetahs to their third Currie Cup loss after grinding out a 33-29 win at Toyota Stadium, in Bloemfontein, on Saturday afternoon.
A small but enthusiastic crowd was treated to a typically hard-fought but exciting contest with both sides in the mood to play an open brand of rugby.
The home side looked to have done enough to head into the break in front with tries from Louis Fouche and Lloyd Greeff cancelling out Lwazi Mvovo’s 13th minute opener.
The Sharks, however, had other ideas and added two five-pointers shortly before the break. First captain Chiliboy Ralepelle and then Wihan Vosloo, on the hooter, the beneficiaries of a well-executed rolling maul to edge the visitors in front.
The Sharks were the first to dot down in the second period with Ralepelle bagging a brace, again finding himself at the back of a rolling maul that the Cheetahs had no answer.
Cheetahs flyhalf Fouche then added another try to his points tally as he helped set up a nervy last 20 minutes with his side trailing by just four points after he knocked over the extras.
The game opened up but neither side could find the killer touch as possession was handed over at regular intervals. Robert du Preez’s missed penalty attempt in the 65th minute did not prove costly as his side’s forwards began to dominate.
It was Du Preez’s brother, Daniel, who put his side out clear in front with a little over ten minutes to play. The eighthman on hand to run in a simply try thanks to a delightful pass by replacement scrumhalf Cameron Wright.
There was time for drama as the Sharks’ fine defensive effort finally let up with two minutes left as Khutha Mchunu saw yellow and his side docked a penalty try and the margin once again just four points.
The Sharks ensured they would not be on the receiving end of a late comeback as they held on to keep their 2018 record at 100 percent.
Free State Cheetahs – Tries: Louis Fouche, Lloyd Greeff, Penalty try. Conversion: Louis Fouche. Drop goal: Louis Fouche.
Sharks – Tries: Lwazi Mvovo, Chiliboy Ralepelle (2), Wihan Vosloo, Daniel du Preez. Conversions: Robert du Preez (3), Curwin Bosch.