Sharks take a bite out of the Cheetahs
The Cell C Sharks emphatically answered coach Robert du Preez’s call for an improvement on the previous week’s mediocrity by surging to a convincing 38-30 win over the Toyota Cheetahs in Bloemfontein last evening.
The wings scored three of the four Sharks tries, but it was the magnificent pack that laid the platform and drove this important win for the Durban franchise, who needed a strong, confidence-building performance before playing against the Emirates Lions next week. The Sharks needed to respond strongly after struggling to a two-point home win over the struggling Southern Kings last Saturday.
From the early minutes, the Sharks’ big men let it be known that they were going to be making a massive statement as they wasted no time in getting into the game. The Cheetahs did occasionally put in a strong scrum, but it was mostly the Durbanites who had the front foot ball and they also dominated the breakdown battle.
As Cheetahs captain Francois Venter lamented afterwards, it was the turnovers that went against the home side that killed them as much as anything else, and they are going to have to be much better at protecting the ball when they travel to Cape Town next weekend to face the Stormers.
But all the half-time statistics were in favour of the Sharks, who led the possession battle 60% to 40%, and it was similar in the territory battle. The Cheetahs had to make almost three times as many tackles (75 to 27) and they similarly won the linebreak count and the loose ball battle.
That should have meant that the Sharks spent the entire opening 40 minutes on the front foot, but it didn’t turn out that way, with the Cheetahs actually leading 20-15 at half time.
Two more Bosch penalties drummed home the Sharks’ advantage as they went to a 38-23 score before the never-say-die Cheetahs struck back that late try from Rhule.
They came close to scoring another in the final minute that would have given them a bonus point, but that might have flattered them on a day when the Sharks were the better team by some considerable distance.
ON THE BALL Fred Zeilinga of the Toyota Cheetahs tries to run with the ball in last night’s Super Rugby match against the Cell C Sharks at the Toyota Stadium