The Sharks picked up their second victory of the Super Rugby campaign as they saw off the Cheetahs 27-10 in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
An improved performance was always on the cards following the defeat the men from Durban suffered against Stormers in their previous outing and the revival particularly at scrum-time will be encouraging for both the Super Rugby team and the Springbok coaching setup.
The experience Tendai Mtawarira and brothers Bismarck and Jannie Du Plessis brought to the game was crucial on the day, but the real winner for the Sharks was their defence against a Cheetahs outfit that was predictably full of running.
The home side were dealt a significant blow ahead of the match when fly-half Joe Pietersen was ruled out through injury and the absence of an experienced playmaker showed as thy failed to show the structure in defence that saw them walk away with the win when these sides met in the opening round.
Pietersen’s replacement, Willie du Plessis, started the afternoon on a positive note as he put the Cheetahs in front in the fifth minute, but that would be the last time his team had any say in the contest.
The Sharks responded swiftly with a try by Springbok centre Frans Steyn who barged his way over from eight metres out.
Lambie kicked the conversion and although the Cheetahs had a chance to close the gap, Du Plessis missed from 25 metres out after Renaldo Bothma was adjudged to have been off-side.
The Sharks stretched their lead to 10-3 in the 23rd minute with another Lambie penalty and would go well clear of their hosts when Man-of-the-Match Marcell Coetzee scored his team’s second try from a well executed driving maul in the 28th minute.
The penalty that gave the visitors the field position was conceded by their number eight Boom Prinsloo who pushed one of his opponents in an off-the-ball incident.
Coetzee scored his second try of the match a little more than five minutes later – again from a drive and again Lambie made no mistake with the conversion.
In an otherwise pleasing half, the Sharks were dealt a heavy blow when lock Pieter-Steph du Toit was carried off the field with a knee injury.
The players looked to be in tremendous pain, but was later seen walking around with a knee-brace which may be an indication that he isn’t as hurt as was initially thought.
Leading 22-3 at the break the Sharks needed just one try in the second stanza to bank the bonus point.
Their hosts, however, had other plans as they tried to claw their way back into the match.
They took every opportunity to attack the Sharks line and even though they dominated possession and territory for periods on end, they needed something special when the fat lady had already raised her voice.
Coetzee came close to securing a hat-trick of tries, but his third drive to the line was adjudged to have been illegal.
Eventually Jack Wilson finished off in the corner to ensure the Sharks would return home with the bonus point while the Cheetahs had Francois Venter to thank for their first and only try of the match which arrived with only six minutes left on the clock.
Perhaps the only positive the Cheetahs will take from the match is the star-quality flanker Heinrich Brussow showed when he was brought on as a replacement.
Brussow lived-up to his reputation as one of the best players at the breakdown and should become a permanent face in his team’s starting line-up during their upcoming tour of Australasia.
Pen: Du Plessis
Tries: Steyn, Coetzee 2, Wilson
Con: Lambie 2
Cheetahs: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Willie du Plessis, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Boom Prinsloo, 7 Jean Cook, 6 Oupa Mohoje, 5 Francois Uys (captain), 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Danie Mienie.
Replacements: 16 BG Uys, 17 Stephan Coetzee, 18 Maks van Dyk, 19 Heinrich Brussow, 20 Steven Sykes, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Francois Brummer, 23 Clayton Blommetjies.
Sharks: 15 SP Marais, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Francois Steyn, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Renaldo Bothma, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Mouritz Botha, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (c), 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Marco Wentzel, 20 Daniel du Preez, 21 Conrad Hoffmann, 22 Andre Esterhuizen, 23 Jack Wilson.
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Jaco van Heerden (South Africa), Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
Television match official: Johan Greeff (South Africa)