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Sunday, July 21, 2024

Currie Cup race blown wide open after Sharks earn shock win over Cheetahs

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Durban — The Sharks have blown the Currie Cup race wide open with a gutsy 24-17 defeat of the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Friday afternoon.

Coach Joey Mongalo had described playing the unbeaten Cheetahs away as “the Test match of the Currie Cup” and his players rose to the occasion by playing their best rugby of the tournament so far.

The Cheetahs were heavy favourites but could score a point in the first half and it must be many years since they were held scoreless at home after a half of rugby.

The Sharks had plenty of heroes, among them captain James Venter and lock Corne Rahl while in the backline Yaw Penxe and centre Alwayno Visagie stood out.

The Sharks led 17-0 at half-time thanks to tries by flank Tinotenda Mavesere and hooker Fez Mbatha while veteran flyhalf Lionel Cronje kicked the rest of the points.

The Cheetahs’ discipline was poor in that first half — they conceded nine penalties to one while prop Schalk van der Merwe was sent to the sin bin for repeated infringements.

The Cheetahs needed to be the first team to score in the second half and they duly thanks to a slick lineout move which propelled flank Sibabalo Qoma over the line.

Ruan Pienaar missed the conversion attempt.

The Sharks hit back from the restart and it was a pity that a storming try by Rahl was disallowed because of a knock in the build-up.

The Cheetahs cut the Sharks’ lead to five points when flanker Gideon van der Merwe crawled over after a long period of pressure.

Sharks prop Khwezi Mona was sin-binned for a professional foul in the build-up but they were the next to score when Penxe collected a high ball and put away replacement lock Marco de Witt.

The Cheetahs were back in the game when Louis van der Westhuizen scored off the back of a maul but Siya Masuku couldn’t kick the conversion from virtually in front of the sticks.

The Sharks’ defence was heroic in the final ten minutes and they fully deserved their celebrations at the final whistle.

Point-scores

Free State Cheetahs 17 — Tries: Sibabalo Qoma, Gideon vd Merwe, Louis van der Westhuizen. Conversions: Ruan Pienaar.

Sharks 24 — Tries: Tinotenda Mavesere, Fez Mbatha, Marco de Witt. Conversions: Lionel Cronje (3). Penalty: Lionel Cronje. Penalties: Lionel Cronje

@MikeGreenaway67

IOL Sport

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