DURBAN – It was almost an unfair Currie Cup contest, and so it proved as the Sharks ran in seven tries to dispatch a depleted Free State Cheetahs side 45-15 at Kings Park on Saturday.
The Sharks produced some scintillating tries against a Cheetahs outfit missing their entire first-choice squad, who are doing duty in the PRO14.
It means that Robert du Preez’s team now top the Currie Cup log on 29 points after seven matches, with the Cheetahs dropping down to second on 25.
Ironically it was the men from Bloemfontein who made the better start, taking the ball through an incredible 25 phases for over three minutes, before possession was kicked away.
But the Sharks got going soon enough, with loose forward Tera Mtembu setting up centre Lukhanyo Am for the opening try in the 10th minute. By the half-hour mark, the Sharks had sped into a 19-3 lead as tighthead prop John-Hubert Meyer and fullback Inny Radebe added further five-pointers, with the Cheetahs having a lone Ryno Eksteen penalty to show for their efforts.
The visitors battled to get any kind of cohesion going upfront and in the backline, with a number of new names and even Springbok Sevens star Chris Dry being roped in to captain the Cheetahs at blindside flank.
Their inexperience was evident on defence, with the powerful Sharks left wing Sbu Nkosi breaking tackles almost at will with ball-in-hand.
And the Man of the Match Nkosi set up a try for scrumhalf Louis Schreuder when he flummoxed three defenders with skill and strength, before offloading to the No 9 on his inside.
Nkosi managed to score two of his own in the second half, both seeing him being the beneficiary of some thrilling passages of attacking rugby, with replacement fullback Garth April also catching the eye with timely interventions on the counter.
There were two consolation tries for the Cheetahs, with Marco Mason and Luther Obi adding some respectability to the scoreline.
Sharks 45 (24): Tries: Lukhanyo Am, John-Hubert Meyer, Inny Radebe, Louis Schreuder, Marius Louw, Sbu Nkosi (2). Conversions: Radebe (3), Garth April (2).
Free State Cheetahs 15 (3): Tries: Marco Mason, Luther Obi. Conversion: Mason (1). Penalty: Ryno Eksteen (1).