Durban – A controversial late try by Willie le Roux plus a first half score by Raymond Rhule saw the Cheetahs stun the Sharks and move top of the South African Vodacom Super Rugby Conference with a 12-6 victory at a wet and cold Kings Park in Durban on Saturday.
Winger Rhule crossed the whitewash in the 33rd minute to open the scoring with a converted try, while two Patrick Lambie penalties either side of half time meant it was a one-point contest heading into the closing stages.
But referee Jonathon White played advantage for a knock-on in favour of the hosts two minutes from time when the ball was kicked 10 metres back and Pieter-Steph du Toit’s pass was intercepted by Le Roux, who ran in to score, much to the anger of Keegan Daniel and the Sharks players.
But it was just reward for the visitors after an error-strewn performance by John Plumtree’s side as they slipped to second on the domestic log.
Visiting scrumhalf Piet van Zyl almost secured the first try in the 11th minute when opposite number Cobus Reinach tried to run square across the backline after collecting a good kick-ahead down the left flank.
The hosts suffered a crucial blow after 24 minutes when Tendai Mtawarira had to be helped off the field with an ankle injury and they immediately appeared slightly weaker on the scrum.
Rhule should have then scored in the left corner after a clever chip by Le Roux, only to knock on with the line gaping.
But there was little the Sharks could do to stop the pacey winger in the 33rd minute when Paul Jordaan failed to gather the loose ball outside the 22 after an up-and-under kick and Rhule kicked forward, beat debutante Andries Coetzee and dived onto the ball.
There was an immediate response from the home team, who should have scored two minutes later, but conceded a turnover on the line, while they also turned down two kickable penalties in favour of setting up lineouts.
Unfortunately, both came to nothing, although they did have a third chance and rightfully went for goal when a tackler failed to roll away – Lambie knocking over on the stroke of the hooter.
The second half began as the first did with the Sharks again enjoying the bulk of possession and doing little with it.
They were well placed in attack in the 48th minute, but Du Toit was punished for not releasing the ball inside the 22 as more promising possession was wasted.
The Sharks finally managed to get some points after the hour mark when flyhalf Francis conceded a penalty in front of the post, allowing Lambie to kick over.
Le Roux then scored the unconverted try to stretch the gap to six Äseveral Sharks players venting their anger at White as boos rung out around Kings Park.
Sharks: Penalties – Patrick Lambie (2)
Cheetahs: Try – Raymond Rhule, Willie le Roux. Conversion: Burton Francis. – Sapa