The Cheetahs pulled off a hard-fought 12-6 derby victory over the Sharks in Durban on Saturday in a win that puts them atop the SA conference.
In a gutsy performance, the men from Bloemfontein are up to third - temporarily at least depending on the result in Port Elizabeth - after this victory.
Unfortunately the wet weather conditions played a factor in the action at Kings Park as both outfits struggled to get to grips with the slippery ball.
Mistakes were frequent and it was no surprise that the scoreline remained 0-0 for as long as it did, the first points eventually coming on 33 minutes. That score arrived via a little help from the conditions too as Raymond Rhule opened the Cheetahs' account for a score that moved him up to four tries.
Before the deadlock was broken the Cheetahs also came close when scrum-half Piet van Zyl pounced on Cobus Reinach spilling the ball in his own 22. But Pat Lambie got back in time to save his side as he dislodged the ball from the visiting half-back. The warning shot was well-and-truly sounded though.
Things got worse for the Sharks on 24 minutes when prop Tendai Mtawarira hobbled from the action with a leg injury that will be a concern to both John Plumtree and Heyneke Meyer. Opposite number Coenie Oosthuisen meanwhile was getting through the tackles and also causing a nuisance at the breakdown.
Few scoring chances were presenting themselves however in Durban and it wasn't until Rhule hacked the ball onward following Heinrich Brussow's initial boot downfield from his own 22 that the wing was able to dive on the ball for the try. Burton Francis' conversion made it a 7-0 lead for the Cheetahs.
Rhule's score prompted the Sharks to life and a series of phases and territory eventually resulted in Lambie knocking over three points on the half-time hooter.
Upon the turnaround the home side set about continuing from where they left off but with a combined total of 25 handling errors amassed by 56 minutes, things were never going to spark into life. That statement was furthered by the Cheetahs withstanding all the Sharks were throwing at them in their own 22.
Francois Steyn was introduced into the action ten minutes into the second-half and his physicality to go with fellow replacement Jean Deysel did cause the Cheetahs a few concerns for a spell leading up to the hour. Eventually Lappies Labuschagne went off his feet and Lambie made it 7-6 from distance.
It was interesting that the Cheetahs, still yet to receive a bye week, had not used any of their seven replacements with ten minutes left on the clock. Naka Drotske did eventually utilise his bench on 71 minutes though when Frans Viljoen and Rayno Benjamin came on to help the visitors in the dying embers.
It was one of their mainstays though who sealed the win when Willie le Roux intercepted Pieter-Steph du Toit's pass to run in for a win that gives them a further boost to what has been an impressive season thus far.
For the Sharks:
Pen: Lambie 2
For the Cheetahs:
Tries: Rhule, Le Roux
Sharks: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Andries Coetzee, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Keegan Daniel (capt), 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Jannie du Plessis, 18 Jean Deysel, 19 Tera Mtembu, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Francois Steyn, 22 Sean Robinson.
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 Johan Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Burton Francis, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Phillip van der Walt, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Adriaan Strauss (capt), 1 Coenie Oosthuisen.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Landman Ligtoring, 19 Frans Viljoen, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Francois Brummer Francois, 22 Ryno Benjamin.
Referee: Jonathon White (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Marius Jonker (South Africa), Stefan Breytenbach (South Africa)
Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)