Akker van der Merwe gets away from Dewaldt Duvenage. Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

DURBAN - The Sharks and the Cheetahs both scored late tries at the weekend to secure wins that ensures Saturday’s match between the teams at Kings Park will be a tantalising top-of-the-table Currie Cup clash.

The Sharks are building encouraging momentum after having lost to the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein in round one. They have been undefeated since, winning five in a row.

They were all over Western Province in the second half at Newlands on Saturday, before eventually securing the points with a 75th-minute try to win 21-20, while the Cheetahs scored their match-winning try in the last run of play against the Lions in Bloemfontein to secure a 30-24 victory to retain the top spot on the log.

Sharks coach Robert du Preez would not have been amused had his charged flogged the match in Cape Town, given the endless run of scoring opportunities they created, but they literally got over the line five minutes from time and Rhyno Smith showed remarkable composure to kick a difficult conversion to win the game 21-20

“We left it very late,” Du Preez said wryly. “But any win at Newlands is a good win, even if it is by just one point. Of course it was very frustrating in that second half when we did everything but score. We created so many opportunities."

“Patience is the big thing we have to carry on working on,” the coach said. “It has been an issue for us for a while and we are trying to rectify it. If we have to keep the ball for longer rather than force a pass that is not on, then that is what we must do.”

The Sharks were 17-7 down in a first half that was evenly balanced but then took the game by the scruff of the neck in the second half, but despite camping in the WP 22, the visitors came within five minutes of losing the match. But they didn’t. 

“And that comes down to character,” Du Preez said. “We were short on patience and accuracy but had plenty of character and that saw us home. The rest we can work on. Character you either have or you don’t, so we are very pleased that it got us home for the win.”

Despite the players and coaching staff having enjoyed the bye last week following those three matches in eight days, Du Preez said that the bye had possibly been the reason for the players not hitting their straps in the first half.

The Sharks have done the hard yards now in the Currie Cup having secured away wins against big guns in the Lions, Bulls and WP, and they are surely on course for a home semi-final at the very least.

“We are in a good position but the Cheetahs will come hard at us this weekend and then we have tricky away games against the Pumas and Griquas,” he said. “You take nothing for granted when you play those teams away.”

The Star

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