DURBAN – To say it wasn’t pretty is an understatement but in the end it was the Sharks that inched themselves over the line at a steamy Jonsson Kings Park, mostly thank to the immaculate boot of Curwin Bosch and the supreme finishing of Madosh Tambwe, the wing that threatens to score almost every time he touches the ball.
Before kick-off, nobody could predict a winner with any conviction, and that is how it panned out, but nobody also would have said the first tries of the match would only come in the last ten minutes.
A high-scoring game had been anticipated but it took 33 minutes of play before the first points of this game were registered, a surprise given the attacking threats packed into each of the backlines, but that first half hour was strewn with errors from both sides.
It was turgid stuff, not easy on the eye in the slightest. In mitigation, it was stiflingly hot in the Shark Tank and the ball was clearly as slippery as soap. And for the Cheetahs, there was definite rustiness given that they had not played for three weeks, in fact since they beat the Bulls in Bloemfontein.
The Cheetahs’ lineouts, in particular, were wayward and it meant the Sharks had a number of let-offs when attacking lineouts malfunctioned.
The Cheetahs set scrum seemed to be the more powerful but the Sharks mostly either hung on or the Cheetahs front row would get penalised for technical infringements.
The Sharks had at least four goalable penalties in the first half which they instead kicked to the corners, only to be fairly easily repelled, and it was in the 33rd minute that Bosch eventually (and successfully) aimed for the posts.
And the Sharks doubled their score at the half time hooter when Cheetahs lock Carl Wegner was sin-binned for foul play and, and Bosch landed a beauty from 45m.
Tian Schoeman and Bosch traded penalties as the game wearily wore on. The Sharks were 9-6 in front in the 70th minute when Schoeman threaded a forward pass through a gap to William Small-Smith and the try was scored. How it was allowed to stand is a mystery.
In any case the Cheetahs were ahead for the first time in the match and the Sharks’ character was now under scrutiny.
They seem to have heaps of it though, and they battled into the Cheetahs territory and when the referee signalled that the Sharks had a penalty advantage, Bosch cross kicked to Tambwe, who finished brilliantly.
The Sharks were back in the lead and then as the hooter was about to sound, Bosch sealed the win with mammoth penalty from well within his own half.
Sharks: Try: Madosh Tambwe. Penalties: Curwin Bosch (4). Conversions: Bosch
Cheetahs: Try: William Small-Smith. Penalties: Tian Schoeman (2). Conversions: Schoeman