The Toyota Cheetahs maintained their unbeaten status in the Carling Currie Cup with a convincing 29-15 (halftime 16-10) victory over the Cell C Sharks at Hollywoodbets Kings Park Stadium in Durban on Wednesday evening.
The Cheetahs scored three tries through flankers Andisa Ntsila and Gideon van der Merwe while replacement hooker Louis van der Westhuizen added the third. The Sharks landed two of their own five-pointers, both from mauls, through hooker Fez Mbatha and replacement prop Braam Reyneke.
The kickers did not have a great night with the boot as the rain covered the stadium and made handling and footing unsure. Sharks Flyhalf Joaquin Diaz Bonilla missed one conversion while adding a two-pointer to go with his solitary penalty while Ruan Pienaar landed two penalties and a conversion but missed a penalty and two conversions.
However, the steady boot of Frans Steyn landed two monster penalties in the first half, the second of which was from the halfway line.
The Cheetahs dominated the opening half hour, building up a 16 point lead without reply as Pienaar opened the scoring with a penalty after 10 minutes. Steyn then banged his two efforts over the bar to give the visitors a nine-point lead after the first quarter.
Despite the difficult conditions, the Cheetahs provided the best try of the game as fullback Clayton Blommetjies claimed a high ball on his 22m line before dashing up towards the halfway line, drawing two defenders and then offloading to winger Cohen Jasper, who darted inside and passed to Ntshila, who showed a turn of speed and some deft footwork to side-step Bonilla and score the opening try.
Pienaar’s conversion gave the visiting side the 16-point cushion before the Sharks finally woke up. Bonilla opened the Sharks scoring after 33 minutes with his only penalty attempt. The Sharks were putting the Cheetahs under some serious pressure and this told, as a strong maul from a lineout close to the Cheetahs line, resulted in Mbatha controlling well through the middle to score and bring the hosts to within six points at the break after Bonilla added the extra two points.
The second stanza began as the first half ended with the Sharks piling on the pressure and controlling matters, with the Cheetahs giving away penalty after penalty. This resulted in replacement prop Conrad van Vuuren being sent to the sin-bin for 10 minutes just eight minutes after the restart.
The Sharks used their one-man advantage well and setup another driving maul with Reyneke controlling well and driving through the middle of the maul. Bonilla missed his attempt to give the home side the lead for the first time in the game.
But just before Van Vurren returned to the fray, Pienaar extended the Cheetahs lead to four points with his second penalty after the Sharks were penalised for illegally disrupting a Cheetahs maul. With 15 minutes remaining on the clock, both sides were looking to up the ante but it was the visiting side that took the advantage and a strong maul from a lineout had Van der Westhuizen on the score sheet, controlling well and barging over for the Cheetahs second try.
The Sharks, pushing to get back into the game, nine points adrift, made some rash decisions and Bonilla made the gravest of the all. The Sharks flyhalf, on his own 22m line, tried to pass the ball from his ankles, only to throw the ball forward. Van der Merwe was quickest to react, hacking the ball through and beating the Sharks defence, diving on the ball and putting the Cheetahs out of site.
The Cheetahs now have a six-point lead at the top of the Currie Cup log over the Vodacom Bulls, who have a game in hand while the Sharks sit third, two points behind the Bulls and just three ahead of the Tafel Lager Griquas, whom they face next at Tafel Lager Park in Kimberley in two week’s time.
The Cheetahs next game is only in the middle of April when they travel to Cape Town to face-off against DHL Western Province, whom they beat 24-17 last week in Bloemfontein.
**As published on Supersport.com