The Cheetahs powered their way back to the top of the Currie Cup table with a thumping 44-15 (halftime 24-10) win over the Sharks at the Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein on Saturday afternoon.
The Cheetahs were in devastating form in the first half, securing their fourth try bonus point before the break, eventually outscoring the visitors by six tries to two, for a dominant result that secures their position as competition favourites with their ninth straight win.
The Sharks by contrast have lost form since starting the competition with four straight wins, and now sit with five wins, a draw and three losses and could be dragged into a play-off battle with the Griquas and Pumas within four points of them in third place now.
Here are four talking points:
It was all-out attack from the Cheetahs in the first half as they ran in four tries to seal the bonus point in the first 40 minutes. Two tries in the first 12 minutes seemed to suggest the Cheetahs would run away with it, but their next two came in the 29th and 40th minutes. With the damage done in the first half the Cheetahs then went off the boil in the second but still ran in another two more tries to seal a well-deserved win.
The Cheetahs were constantly on the front foot throughout the match, largely thanks to their forward dominance, shown by their pack in the scrums and mauls. Their fourth try in the first half was all made from a massive scrum in the Sharks 22m, while their sixth try in the second half was from a powerful maul that made it just short with replacement hooker Louis van der Westhuizen peeling off and diving over.
The Sharks showed some valiant defence to make sure that the Cheetahs didn’t power over the half century mark of points. It wasn’t a perfect defensive performance by any means, with Cheetahs wings Rosko Specman and Daniel Kasende making long range breaks that led to tries, with three of them started from the home sides half. However the Sharks fronted up during the middle stages of the first half and in the second half to stop the Cheetahs numerous times when they had gotten into the Sharks 22m.
For the Cheetahs, who were recently dealt a major blow in their efforts to get back into international franchise action, they are making the best possible statement by inching their way towards a perfect season. With nine wins from nine, the Cheetahs are top of the log and on course to go through the pool stage unbeaten, with three more pool games before the knock-outs. This win over the Sharks also sealed their place in the play-offs, with one more win probably enough to seal a home semi.
Cheetahs: Tries – Victor Sekekete, Marnus van der Merwe, Cohen Jasper, Andisa Ntsila, Mihlali Mosi, Louis van der Westhuizen; Conversions – Ruan Pienaar (3), Siya Masuku; Penalties – Pienaar, Masuku
Sharks: Tries – Cameron Wright, Dan Jooste; Conversion – Boeta Chamberlain; Penalty – Chamberlain