Bloemfontein – The Sharks lost their first Super Rugby game in Bloemfontein since 2009 as the Cheetahs ran out 27-20 winners in a derby clash at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein on Saturday evening.
Already sure of their place at the top of the South African conference, the Sharks would have been left disappointed as the Cheetahs produced a rounded performance to thwart their visitors.
The Sharks started at a ferocious pace, putting the Cheetahs under heavy pressure from the start, but it was the hosts that got the first points on the scoreboard.
Springbok flyhalf Johan Goosen kicked a penalty as early as the second minute to give his side the early lead.
That gave the Cheetahs valuable momentum which they used to pin the Sharks down in their own half.
It resulted in the first try of the evening for the hosts, when the Cheetahs put together a driving maul, allowing flanker Torsten van Jaarsveld to dive over for the five-pointer.
Goosen converted to give the Cheetahs a ten point lead.
The Sharks regrouped and launched numerous attacks that forced the Cheetahs to infringe.
Sharks flyhalf Tim Sweil kicked his first penalty of the evening in the 19th minute after missing an earlier attempt.
Soon thereafter the Cheetahs were left to ponder their defensive structures after Sharks scrumhalf Cobus Reinach broke away from a lineout and beat a number of Cheetahs defenders to score his seventh try of the season.
Sweil converted to draw the scores level at 10-10.
Sweil was again called to kick a further penalty to give the Sharks the lead for the first time in the game.
The Cheetahs kept attacking, however, and soon eighthman Philip van der Walt dotted down in the 33rd minute to regain the lead for the hosts.
Goosen kicked the conversion, leaving the Sharks four points behind at half-time.
The hard-fought contest at the break down area continued in the second half, with both the Cheetahs and Sharks conceding penalties as the result of heavy pressure.
The hosts made the better of the possession and Springbok lock Lood de Jager crashed over for a try, which Goosen converted to stretch the lead to 11 points.
The Sharks tried their best to make up the deficit, but the Cheetahs kept building momentum and soon resulted in more points as Goosen kicked his second penalty of the evening to leave the Sharks trailing by two converted tries.
The Sharks lost momentum as a result of poor handling errors or penalties, but finally scored their second try of the evening after replacement hooker Bismarck du Plessis burst over and Sweil converted.
Scorers: Cheetahs 27 (17): Tries: Torsten van Jaarsveld, Philip van der Walt, Lood de Jager. Conversions: Johan Goosen (3). Penalties: Johan Goosen (2).
Sharks 20 (13): Tries: Cobus Reinach, Bismarck du Plessis. Conversions: Tim Sweil (2). Penalties: Tim Sweil (2). – Sapa