Durban - A late try by wing Kobus van Wyk saw the Sharks snatch victory over the Free State Cheetahs in their Currie Cup encounter at Kings Park on Saturday.
The Sharks won 27-20, after leading 17-12 at half-time.
It was a tightly-contested affair and the two sides were only separated by the superior kicking accuracy of Sharks flyhalf Curwin Bosch and later Rhyno Smith.
Both sides scored three tries but the Cheetahs only managed to convert one of them and an additional drop goal from Bosch completed the seven-point difference.
The home side started the better of the two teams and took the lead through a Bosch penalty before scoring the opening try of the match in the 13th minute.
The Sharks stretched the Cheetahs defence out wide with some quick and purposeful running. This created space for Lwazi Mvovo to saunter easily over the line on the wing. Bosch added the extras to stretch the lead to 10-0.
The visitors hit back four minutes later through Joseph Dweba. After making slow, but consistent, progress up the pitch with some patient play by the forwards the hooker was able to barge his way over. Louis Fouche was unsuccessful with his conversion attempt.
The Cheetahs continued to attack and put the home side under extreme pressure. After successfully managing to clear the ball off their tryline on two separate occasions, the Sharks failed at the third attempt.
After a solid scrum on the five-meter line, the Cheetahs chose to throw bodies at the heart of the defence instead of sending it out wide and Janse van Rensburg was able to blast a way through. Fouche kicked the conversion this time and the Cheetahs took the lead for the first time in the match.
With just a couple of minutes left until half-time, the visitors were still pressuring the Sharks territory 10 metres out from the tryline.
However, a fumbled pass in the backline was picked up by Aphelele Fassi, who raced the length of the pitch to restore the home side's lead. Bosch again added the extras to bring the score to 17-12 at half time.
The Sharks thought they'd scored shortly after the break but, after checking with the TMO, the try was disallowed and Craig Burden was sent to the sin-bin for a shoulder charge in the build-up.
Fouche kicked a penalty and Bosch nailed a drop goal while Burden was off the field.
Despite being behind, it felt like the Cheetahs were attacking for a vastly greater portion of the match than the Sharks and that pressure continued in the second half.
Even though that was the case, it took an interception for them to get over the line for the third time.
Camped on the Sharks five-metre line, a wayward throw ended up in the hands of the home side. However, in their attempts to get it out wide for a clearance, the ball was intercepted by Carel-Jan Coetzee who had a very short distance to travel to score.
Fouche once again missed the kick in what turned out to be a tellingly-poor kicking display.
With the score level at 20-all, the Sharks made one final push for the win, concentrating their efforts on one corner of the Cheetahs defence. They drew in a lot of players before sending some long passes the other way to find Van Wyk wide open on the wing.
Smith added the extras this time to hand the Sharks a 27-20 win.
It was the Sharks' fourth win in four outings and moved them to fifth on the Currie Cup standings, while the Cheetahs are third after claiming a losing bonus point.
In next weekend's action, the Sharks tackle the Golden Lions in Johannesburg (Sunday, August 18), while the Cheetahs are away to the Pumas in Nelspruit (Saturday, August 17).
Tries: Lwazi Mvovo, Aphelele Fassi, Kobus van Wyk
Conversions: Curwin Bosch (2) Rhyno Smith
Drop goal: Bosch
Free State Cheetahs
Tries: Joseph Dweba, Benhard Janse van Rensburg, Carel-Jan Coetzee
Conversions: Louis Fouche
15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Jeremy Ward (co-captain), 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Sanele Nohamba, 8 Tera Mtembu (co-captain), 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Phepsi Buthelezi, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Mzamo Majola
Substitutes: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Gideon Koegelenberg, 20 Evan Roos, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Marius Louw, 23 Rhyno Smith
Free State Cheetahs
15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Carel-Jan Coetzee, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 Dries Swanepoel, 11 Rabz Maxwane, 10 Louis Fouche, 9 Tian Meyer (captain), 8 Henco Venter, 7 Abongile Nonkontwana, 6 Junior Pokomela, 5 JP du Preez, 4 Sitno Manjesi, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Charles Marais
Substitutes: 16. Jacques du Toit, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Reinach Venter, 19 Walt Steenkamp, 20 Gerhard Olivier, 21 Jasper Wiese, 22 Dian Badenhorst/Tapiwa Mafura, 22 Ruan Pienaar