Sharks snatch Currie Cup win over Cheetahs

The Natal Sharks survived a late TMO decision and beat the Free State Cheetahs 19-16 in the Currie Cup at Kings Park in Durban on Saturday.

The result keeps the current Currie Cup champions unbeaten this season and they move into second place behind Western Province.

A brilliant solo try from Clayton Blommetjies after 26 minutes enabled the Free State Cheetahs to hold a 3-13 advantage over the Sharks at half-time.

A long-range penalty by Fred Zeilinga four minutes from time helped the Sharks
snatch the last-ditch victory.

The home flyhalf kicked 14 points in total, with the other five coming through
a late try by Tonderai Chavhanga.

However, the visitors will rue what might have been after leading the game
for most of the evening thanks to a brilliant Clayton Blommetjies’ try and the
boot of Willie du Plessis.

The defeat was their second in three games, while victory for the coastal side
lifted them to second on the table behind Western Province.

The Cheetahs did most of the early running, but their best chance ended with
a knock-on from Rayno Benjamin 10 metres out on the right after a floated pass
by centre Joubert Engelbrecht.

At the other end, the Sharks were gradually improving, and fullback SP Marais
did brilliantly to set up Chavhanga, who ran out of space on the left, while
centre Paul Jordaan and loose forward Francois Kleinhans were also caught just
before the line.

After a scoreless opening quarter, the first points finally arrived in the
21st minute when Du Plessis kicked over a penalty as lock Etienne Oosthuizen
was penalised for not releasing the tackler.

The lead was doubled moment later by the Cheetahs’ flyhalf after Marco Wentzel
was caught offside, before the opening try arrived in the 26th minute courtesy
of some clever play from the busy Sarel Pretorius .

The experienced scrumhalf made the most of some casual defending from the hosts
after the kick-off by darting sharply out of his 22-metre area and spreading
right to fullback Blommetjies, who kicked forward and re-gathered expertly ahead
of Chavhanga and Zeilinga.

There was finally some scoreboard joy for the hosts on the half-hour when flyhalf
Zeilinga popped over three points after prop Kevin Stevens was off-side.

It was 13-3 at the break and the hosts cut a further three points off the lead
straight after the restart through Zeilinga — with Francois Uys guilty of infringing
this time.

However, another Wentzel infringement less than two minutes later gifted the
Cheetahs back their lead as Du Plessis slotted the penalty.

Sharks coach Brad Macleod-Henderson had seen enough by then, sending on Lourens
Adriaanse, Thomas du Toit, Conrad Hoffmann and Lionel Cronje even before 50
minutes were up.

The new-look front row made an instant impact by winning a scrum penalty that
was kicked over by Zeilinga, narrowing the gap to seven.

It could have been even better for the home side with 14 minutes to play, but
Zeilinga missed for the first time on the night when he dragged wide kicking
into the wind.

But there was still a twist four minutes later as Chavhanga sliced through
the middle after taking a neat pass from Hoffmann to run in under the posts.

And with time running out, Zeilinga landed the winning 45-metre penalty, which
was a result of another strong scrum.

The Cheetahs looked like they could have snatched it in the final moments of
the match as Kevin Stevens looked to have scored but TMO Jason Jaftha ruled
that he had lost control of the ball short of the line and that he could find
“find no conclusive evidence” that a try had been scored.

Final Score Natal Sharks 19 (3) Free State Cheetahs 16(13)

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