Cheetahs batter Sharks pack to keep semi-final hopes alive
CAPE TOWN – The Cheetahs proved that they are not giving up their Currie Cup title without a fight after overpowering the Sharks 37-10 in Bloemfontein on Sunday.
The four-tries-to-one bonus-point victory ensured that the defending champions kept their semi-final hopes alive, while the Sharks missed out on a chance to move up to second spot on the log.
The Cheetahs are now on 26 log points, but remained in fifth position – two points behind the Sharks (28) in fourth, with the Bulls leading the standings on 35, followed by Western Province (31) and the Lions (29).
Lock and captain Carl Wegner set the example for the rest of his forwards, who produced a fiery display in manhandling a Sharks outfit that went backwards in the scrums, couldn’t provide clean lineout ball and conceded a number of penalties at the breakdown.
The Durbanites had poor discipline across the pitch, and were rattled by the marauding Cheetahs rush defence when they did have possession.
FINAL SCORE: Toyota Cheetahs 37 – Cell C Sharks 10— Toyota Cheetahs (@CheetahsRugby) December 27, 2020
Try: Boan Venter
Conversion: Frans Steyn @TheCurrieCup @blacklabelsa @Springboks @ToyotaSA #CHEvSHA #CheetahsForever #CarlingCurrieCup #ReachForGold #TheChampionWithin pic.twitter.com/Jty6h2O08X
The hosts’ hunger was evident right from the opening kickoff, when they put Jeremy Ward under pressure and the Sharks centre dropped the ball, which was quickly recycled before Wegner barged his way over.
The Sharks hit back quickly, and it was from a mistake as well when Clayton Blommetjies took a quick tap penalty, but prop Boan Venter’s long pass was intercepted by wing Yaw Penxe, who dotted down untouched.
The Sharks’ cause wasn’t helped by the injury to Manie Libbok in a clash of heads with Frans Steyn, which saw the fullback fail his head injury assessment and resulted in Aphelele Fassi coming on.
But the Cheetahs were relentless upfront and at the back, and the pressure took its toll as hooker Marnus van der Merwe finished off following a five-metre scrum, and Steyn slotted a penalty from inside his own half to make it 17-7 after 26 minutes.
The visitors never found their rhythm, as knock-ons, scrappy execution and going for touch instead of taking the three points cost them dearly.
Steyn and Curwin Bosch exchanged further penalties, before the Cheetahs landed the sucker punch on the halftime hooter when replacement wing Rhyno Smith – on for the injured William Small-Smith – rounded off expertly following a strong charge by Boan Venter and quick tap penalty from Ruben de Haas.
At 27-10 down at halftime, it was always going to be too big a gap for the Sharks to close, and Venter’s dominance over Hubert-Meyer in the scrums made things worse for Lukhanyo Am’s team.
Not even two yellow cards within a minute to Boan Venter (dangerous tackle) and Rosko Specman (early tackle) could help the Sharks, as the Cheetahs defence stood firm even with just 13 men.
Steyn banged over his third penalty of the day to expand the lead to 20 points, and despite a number of opportunities in the final quarter, the Sharks were unable to trouble the scorers further.
And Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie would have been a delighted man when the industrious Venter stretched out to score the fourth try and claim the bonus point well after the final hooter.
Cheetahs 37 – Tries: Carl Wegner, Marnus van der Merwe, Rhyno Smith, Boan Venter. Conversions: Frans Steyn (4). Penalties: Steyn (3).
Sharks 10 – Try: Yaw Penxe. Conversion: Curwin Bosch (1). Penalty: Bosch (1).