Sharks and Province assured of home semi-finals

2009-09-21 00:00

THE Sharks, untidy and unconvincing in a messy match, stayed on top of the Currie Cup with a stuttering 24-13 victory over the Free State Cheetahs in Durban on Saturday.

With Western Province thumping the Leopards for a bonus point win in Potchesftroom on Friday night, the Sharks lead by only one at the top of the log and will almost certainly have to take a maximum of 15 log points from their three remaining games (Leopards and the Lions in Durban and Griquas in Kimberley) to win home advantage for a semi-final and, if they advance, the final.

The Blue Bulls, scoring 10 tries, remained in the race for a semi-final place with a 72-16 victory over Boland in Wellington. The Bulls led 22-16 at half-time, but took total charge in the second as they scored 50 unanswered points.

While the Sharks and Western Province are assured of a semi-final spot, and are now squabbling over the top two places, there is a bitter battle for third and fourth places between Griquas, the Blue Bulls and the Cheetahs. The Bulls will have their many Springboks back to face the Free State Cheetahs at Loftus on Saturday.

The Cheetahs, on the back of six successive wins, provided tough opposition for the Sharks at King’s Park on Saturday evening and had their finishing been sharper, after replacement fullback Fabian Juries made a couple of slicing breaks but then took wrong options, they might well have won this match.

Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske said later that turnovers which led to the Sharks two early tries and poor goalkicking — four attempts were missed — cost his side victory.

The Sharks were 15-0 ahead by the end of the first quarter but then became loose and ragged and could have lost the game. Flyhalf Juan Martin Hernandez kicked a penalty and a turnover allowed number eight Ryan Kankowski to counter-attack, Odwa Ndungane dashed down the right flank, Stefan Terblanche somehow picked up a pass, one-handed, off his boots and put Waylon Murray over (8-0). Moments later a messy ruck saw Sharks lively hooker Craig Burden dribble through to score.

The Sharks then lost their structure, played far too much rugby in their own half, failed to chase their kicks, made heaps of handling errors under pressure and were promptly punished.

A try by number eight Ashley Johnson after the excellent wing Lionel Mapoe had made the running and a Jacques-Louis Potgieter penalty on half-time (15-8) would have added spice to Plumtree’s half-time admonishments (15-8).

Plumtree sent on the heavy Bok cavalry in the second half as the Sharks looked to tighten their game and play for territory.

Terblanche did kick an early drop (18-8) but the initial signs were not good as a woeful Sharks clearance kick downfield with no one chasing allowed Potgieter to run through for an excellent JW Jonker try (18-13).

The Cheetahs had a number of attacking opportunities with Juries making inroads but the Sharks defence somehow held and finally the experience of their Springboks, their improved scrummaging and two difficult penalties by Hernandez took the Sharks clear and to their unconvincing eight-point win.

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SATURDAY’S SCORERS

Sharks 24 Cheetahs 13

The Sharks – Tries: Waylon Murray, Craig Burden; Conversions: Juan Hernandez; Penalties: Hernandez (3); Drop goal: Stefan Terblanche. Cheetahs: Tries: Ashley Johnson, JW Jonker; Penalty: Jacques-Louis Potgieter.

Griquas 36 Lions 31

Griquas – Tries: Trompie Nontshinga, Naas Olivier, Sarel Pretorius; Conversions: Olivier (3); Penalties: Olivier (5). Lions – Tries: Johan Jackson, Derick Minnie, Alwyn Hollenbach; Conversions: Herkie Kruger (2); Penalties: Kruger (4).

Boland 16 Blue Bulls 72

Boland – Tries: Nico Esterhuyse; Conversions: Danré Gerber; Penalties: Gerber (3). Blue Bulls – Tries: John Mametsa, Gerhard van den Heever, Francois Hougaard (2), Derick Kuun (3), Gurthrö Steenkamp, Fudge Mabeta, Stefan Watermeyer; Conversions: Burton Francis (3), Francois Brummer (5); Penalties: Francis (2).

Friday: Leopards 3 Western Province 37

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