BLOEMFONTEIN – The Sharks’ Currie Cup defence ended in Bloemfontein last night but it was with a bang rather than a whimper, and Sean Everitt’s Young Turks will return to Durban on Sunday with heads held high.
In a sensational semi-final that yielded 11 tries, the gallant Sharks had the 20 000-strong crowd sweating for three quarters of the match before a deluge of tries from the Cheetahs swept them into the final they will host next week at the same venue.
The 2019 Currie Cup has been a marvellous spectacle, with almost every game a closely fought contest and if yesterday’s thrilling semi-finals are anything to go by, we are in for an exceptional final between the Lions and the Cheetahs.
On Saturday, the Sharks led by 12 points just after half time after having scored points just before and after the break but the Cheetahs then turned on the taps to score 40 points. A hallmark of the Free Staters’ campaign has been their ability to score a flurry of points in the final quarter of matches, which is down to both the high levels of fitness coach Franco Smith demands of his charges and the coach’s wily use of his bench, which contains some of his best players.
The Cheetahs delivered a spectacular comeback to beat Western Province the week before and they did it again against the Sharks after having butchered a host of opportunities in a first half in which the Sharks scored three blistering tries.
As the dust settles on the Sharks’ first campaign under Sean Everitt — who this week will be confirmed a the Sharks’ Super Rugby coach along with assistants David Williams and Brent Janse van Vuuren (until yesterday the Griquas boss) — their supporters will know that their team is in good hands and in rude health.
The Sharks are playing with a youthful exuberance and their willingness to use the ball bodes well for Super Rugby next year.
In Sanele Nohamba, Everitt has unearthed one of the finds of the season. The 20-year-old’s crisp passing, intelligent reading of the game and opportunistic breaks make him a handful for the opposition and South African rugby is going to hear plenty more from the little scrumhalf
Ditto for fullback Aphelele Fassi, who has viewers on the edge of their seats every time he touches the ball, while Curwin Bosch underlined his class by returning from a fortnight’s injury break to score two fine tries.
Sharks fans will be pleased, too, to see the form of Ox Nche, the big prop that is finishing up at the Cheetahs and is bound for Jonsson Kings Park.
Sharks: Tries: Curwin Bosch (2), Sanele Nohamba, Lwazi Mvovo. Conversions: Bosch (2). Penalties: Bosch (2)
Cheetahs: Tries: William Small-Smith, Junior Pokomela (2), Ruan Pienaar, Joseph Dweba, Ox Nche, Jasper Wiese. Penalties: Tian Schoeman (4). Conversions: Schoeman, Pienaar (3)