Cheetahs ready for untested Sharks as Super Rugby series starts up

2013-02-04 00:00

THE Sharks will face one heck of a battle in Bloemfontein against the Cheetahs in their Super Rugby opener on February 23.

The Sharks will only see action for the first time at Woodburn Stadium on Friday night, when they play the Leopards in the first of two pre-season friendlies.

But the Cheetahs showed in beating a strong Stormers outfit 27-26 in their second warm-up game that they will be no pushover in Bloemfontein.

The Stormers looked the superior side for long periods, but the Cheetahs snatched an unlikely win after the final hooter when replacement Hansie Graaff kicked a 55-metre penalty.

The Cheetahs battled to contain the Stormers’ tall lineout and their rolling maul, but they hung on and their late flourish brought them the perfect confidence-booster ahead of the Sharks game.

Coach Naka Drotské — and South African rugby supporters — will also be delighted that Bok flank Juan Smith, back in action after two years, came through half-an-hour of rugby without any problems.

Scorers:

Cheetah t ries: Sarel Pretorius, Frans Viljoen, Rocco

Jansen. Conversions: Elgar Watts (3).

Penalties: Riaan Smit, Hansie Graaff.

Stormers’ t ries: Nizaam Carr (2), Damian de Allende Conversions: Coleman.

Penalties: Kurt Coleman (3).

• The Bulls battled hard for a 38-32 win over the willing Lions at the Orlando Stadium, on Saturday.

Outstanding for the Bulls was big centre and IRB Junior Rugby Player of the Year Jan Serfontein, who formed a threatening midfield partnership with last year’s revelation on number 13, Lionel Mapoe, on loan for the 2013 season.

Coach Frans Ludeke was not reading too much into the win.

“We had a very good pre-season so the expectations on the players this weekend were big. It was encouraging to see them implement what we have been doing at training.

“Obviously there are things we can work on, so we got what we wanted from the clash.

“We could do better at retaining the ball in contact situations because there were a few chances we wasted and we would like to be more accurate in our execution in general.

“But it was the first game of the year so one expects that. The competition starts in three weeks and that is when we want to be at our best.”

Scorers:

Bulls’ Tries: Jan Serfontein, Jurgen Visser (2), Grant Hattingh

Lions’ Tries: Franco Mostert, Jaco Kriel (2),

Anthony Volmink.

• Down in George, Super Rugby newcomers, the Southern Kings, beat South Western Districts 29-13 after leading 10-6 at half time. They scored five tries to one.

• In warm-up games played Down Under, former Sharks and Wallaby wing Clyde Rathbone scored a try for Jake White’s Brumbies on his return after an extended break.

The Brumbies beat the Force 20-18 after leading 17-3 at the break.

Israel Folau, a convert from Rugby League, scored twice on debut for the Waratahs, who beat the Rebels 24-16. The impact of John Kirwan, who has taken over as coach of the Blues, was felt as the Auckland side ran the Reds, and their 11 Wallabies, close before losing 41-35.

Super Rugby champions, The Chiefs, easily beat the Highlanders 36-14, while the Hurricanes edged out the Crusaders 27-26 in a second New Zealand derby friendly.

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