Cheetahs upset Sharks for Currie Cup final spot

The Cheetahs knocked out the Sharks with a late drop goal for a score of 21-23 in the first Currie Cup final to reach final against whoever wins the second Semi-final featuring Western Province and the Bulls.

 

Man of the match Jacques-Louis Potgieter was the hero of the day as he snatched victory for the Cheetahs with a minute remaining on the clock.

The match was ill-tempered match and at times almost reached boiling point but the Cheetahs had just enough to knock the defending champions out of the tournament.


The standout player was undoubtedly Cheetahs flyhalf Jacques-Louis Potgieter who scored the winning drop goal on the stroke of full-time, with the Sharks desperately defending their one-point lead, and scored one of the visitors’ two tries.

 

Potgieter secured 18 of the Cheetahs’ 23 points.

“We can exactly pin point where it went wrong, but well done to the Cheetahs, they played well,” said Sharks captain Stefan Terblanche.


The Cheetahs, who were the underdogs against a Springbok-laden Sharks outfit, have now qualified for the final having sneaked in to the playoffs, and will face either Western Province or the Blue Bulls, who contest the second playoff clash on Saturday night.


Referee Marius Jonker wasn’t a popular figure with the spectators and was booed for heavily penalising the home team at the breakdowns, but the constant pressure applied by an excellent Cheetahs pack of forwards eventually brought the home crowd to a standstill.


The hosts held a commanding 15-3 lead at half-time and three minutes after the break Sharks flyhalf Juan Hernandez struck a drop goal to increase the lead to 18-6, but then the Cheetahs fought back, scoring 14 unanswered points in quick succession to surge into a 20-18 lead with 20 minutes left on the clock.


Two tries – by prop WP Nel in the 45th minute and an intercept try by Potgieter 14 minutes later – saw the visitors take a surprising two-point lead before a penalty from Pienaar put the home team back in front by 21-20.


The high intensity of the game was brought to a climax in the 56th minute when a group brawl broke out after an altercation between the Sharks’ Riaan Swanepoel and Cheetahs lock David de Villiers.


With Potgieter kicking off, it was the visitors who applied the early pressure and after flank Heinrich Brussow turned over two early balls, Sharks lock Johann Muller was penalised by Jonker.


Potgieter made no mistake as they took a 3-0 lead. Three minutes later Cheetahs No 8 Ashley Johnson was stopped metres short of the Sharks goal line but it was the Sharks who turned over the lineout possession.


They attacked from deep inside their own half and wing Odwa Ndungane chipped the ball forward for Terblanche to score the first try of the semifinal in the 10th minute.


Scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar missed the conversion and the Sharks were 5-3 ahead.


There was huge interest in the build-up to the game concerning the big scrum contest and after 15 minutes the first scrum advantage went the Cheetahs’ way with prop WP Nel putting huge pressure on Beast Mtawarira, resulting in the home team being penalised.


The Cheetahs started to gain the ascendancy at the breakdowns but unfortunately for them Potgieter missed vital penalties in the 18th and the 22nd minutes.


In the 37th minute Pienaar stretched the Sharks’ lead to 8-3 with his first successful kick of the game from a penalty.


The Sharks scored their second try on the stroke of half-time after a brilliant run by left wing JP Pietersen, who put flank Jacques Botes in possession, who in turn tossed a long pass in-field to an unmarked Pienaar who went over for a spectacular try.


Pienaar converted himself and the Sharks took a healthy 15-3 lead at the break. But a fightback from the visitors in the second stanza earned t

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