The Sharks overturned a half-time deficit to beat the Cheetahs 23-18 on Saturday to stay firmly in the race for a play-off berth.
The Sharks overturned a half-time deficit to beat the Cheetahs 23-18 in Bloemfontein on Saturday to stay firmly in the race for a Super Rugby play-off berth.
The result sees the Sharks move to fifth in the overall standings, meaning there are now three South African teams in the top six with just two rounds of the regular season remaining.
The Cheetahs held a deserved 11-6 lead at half-time but a barnstorming second period from the Sharks saw the visitors score 17 unanswered points to take control of the clash.
The hosts made a late rally to secure a losing bonus point as the Sharks were reduced to thirteen men in the dying minutes for repeated breakdown infringements.
Outmuscled and outhustled in the opening 40 minutes, the Sharks looked to set to succumb to their Bloemfontein bogey once again as the much-improved Cheetahs continued to impress with their high-tempo game.
Try-magnet Sarel Pretorius was first to cross the whitewash on the quarter-hour mark to give the hosts a 5-3 lead.
The Cheetahs scrum-half touched down for his ninth try of the season thanks to some fantastic counter-attacking by Riaan Viljoen and Ashley Johnson.
With the scrum somewhat of a lottery from an officiating point of view Sias Ebersohn and Patrick Lambie traded penalties to leave the home side with a five-point advantage.
The Sharks bounced back after the break however with a scintillating try from long range by Lwazi Mvovo, who broke from his own half before brushing aside Pretorius' desperate challenge.
The Durbanites' bench provided the killer blow when Adrian Jacobs sliced though the Cheetahs defence to set up JP Pietersen for the Sharks' second try.
The Cheetahs plied the pressure in the closing stages before referee Marius Jonker finally lost patience with the Sharks' hands in the ruck, sending both Charl McLeod and Keegan Daniel to the bin in quick succession.
With a two-man advantage it was no surprise to see the Cheetahs put Riaan Viljoen over to score in the dying moments but it was too little to late in a disappointing second half for Naka Drotske's men.
The Sharks must now travel to Jo'burg to face the Lions and then Pretoria for a showdown with the Bulls in the final two rounds.
For the Cheetahs:
Tries: Pretorius, Viljoen
Con: S. Ebersohn
Pens: S. Ebersohn 2
For the Sharks:
Tries: Mvovo, Pietersen
Cons: Lambie 2
Pens: Lambie 3
Yellow cards: McLeod (73rd min – repeated breakdown infringement), Daniel (78th min – repeated breakdown infringement)
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Riaan Viljoen, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Corne Uys, 11 Philip Snyman, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Davon Raubenheimer, 7 Ashley Johnson, 6 Johan Wessels, 5 Martin Muller, 4 Francois Uys, 3 WP Nel, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Lourens Adriaanse, 18 Izak van der Westhuizen, 19 Pieter Myburgh, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Naas Olivier, 22 Riaan Smit.
Sharks: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Stefan Terblanche, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Gerhard Mostert, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Eugene van Staden, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 John Smit (c).
Replacements: 16 Tendai Mtawarira, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Alistair Hargreaves, 19 Jacques Botes, 20 Frederic Michalak, 21 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 22 Adrian Jacobs.
Referee: Marius Jonker (South Africa)