Sharks take a bite out of the Chee­tahs

CityPress - - Sport - GAVIN RICH sports@city­press.co.za

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.

Su­per­sport.com

PHOTO: JO­HAN PRE­TO­RIUS / GALLO IMAGES

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

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