DURBAN – There was something super special about how the indomitable Sharks refused to go away in this Currie Cup cracker against the Cheetahs and snatched a 27-20 win at the very death at Kings Park on Saturday to keep alive their hopes of featuring in the semi-finals.
For long periods of the game the Sharks hung on for their lives, their frantic defence just stemming wave after wave of Free State attacks.
The beefy Free State forwards outgunned their opponents, and ensured their team had most of the possession.
What the Sharks did have is endless pluck, and whatever happens to them now in the Currie Cup (the Sharks end now with away games to the Lions and the Bulls), we can be assured that this team is in a good place and building to a promising new era under Sean Everitt.
What the Sharks also have is some special, X-factor players that can produce moments of magic.
Curwin Bosch had some sublime moments, as did Aphelele Fassi, and what about the new scrumhalf on the block Sanele Nohamba, last year’s Under-19 captain and Saturday’s Man of the Match?
He had a lively run-on debut, reading the game well and passing and kicking sharply.
The Sharks’ opening try in the 12 minutes was a beauty, originating in their own half with a sweeping backline movement, and then some inter-passing down the touchline before Lwazi Mvovo went over.
Ominously, the Cheetahs replied with a fine score when they held the ball on to the ball for the first time and worked the ball through the phases, with scrumhalf Tian Meyer propelling his forwards up field with short passes.
It was bustling hooker Joseph Dweba who scored in the corner.
And the Cheetahs were the next to score again when a 10-minute period of fierce Sharks defence on their line eventually gave in, and centre Benhard Janse van Rensburg smashed over.
But the Sharks snatched the lead back after the halftime hooter had sounded in sensational fashion when fullback Fassi snatched a loose ball deep in his half, pinned his ears back and showed blistering pace to run three-quarters of the length of the field.
It was a timely score on more than one front because the Sharks had been under the cosh for most of the half, and the against-the-run-of play of play score lifted their flagging spirits.
Just after the break, captain Tera Mtembu went over unmarked after a period of pressure on the Free State line, which came about after a brilliant counter-attack out of his half by Bosch.
But what would have been a wonderful try was cancelled because of an illegal shoulder charge by replacement hooker Craig Burden, who was binned for the offence, as he was last week too, against the Pumas.
FULL TIME:— The Sharks (@TheSharksZA) August 10, 2019
A brutal, phenomenal, dramatic battle saw the @cellc Sharks come out on top as Kobus van Wyk scored a last-minute try!
Both sides were evenly matched until the wing went over in the corner. A great match from both sides!#SHAvCHE #OurSharksForever#Reloaded pic.twitter.com/zUTLKmqTBg
And the disappointment for the Sharks was exacerbated a minute later when the Cheetahs nailed a penalty to narrow the deficit to 17-15.
This was countered by a super drop goal by Bosch to underline his class, and put the Sharks out to 20-15.
Still the Free State pressure continued, and eventually right wing Carel-Jan Coetzee scored in the corner.
And with the conversion missing, it was locked up at 20-20 with 10 to go.
But the Sharks stole it at the death, wing Kobus van Wyk going over unmarked from a pinpoint pass by substitute centre Marius Louw.
Sharks 27 – Tries: Lwazi Mvovo, Aphelele Fassi, Kobus van Wyk. Conversions: Curwin Bosch (2), Rhyno Smith. Penalties: Bosch (1). Drop Goal: Bosch (1).
Cheetahs 20 – Tries: Joseph Dweba, Benhard Janse van Rensburg, Carel-Jan Coetzee. Conversion: Louis Fouché (1). Penalty: Fouché (1).@MikeGreenaway67