The third match in a row in which they failed to score a try
The Cheetahs scored a try in each half to edge the Sharks 12-6 in Durban on Saturday.
The defeat sees the Sharks lose their spot at the top of the South African conference after the third match in a row in which they failed to score a try.
The day was miserable. The game was miserable. And if you were a Shark or one of its supporters, the result was miserable. The rain came down, the water stood on the field and the game was mostly a series of errors. In the stands there were just over 10 000 to see this. They may well have preferred home comforts in front of the television
The Cheetahs scored two tries. The first one came when the Sharks knocked on, the second one when Pieter-Steph du Toit passed to Willie le Roux who chugged 45 metres to score. This caused consternation amongst the Sharks and provoked behaviour more associated with the soccer field, notably from Francois Steyn.
The Cheetahs won the ball from a scrum and Le Roux, in the flyhalf position, knocked on a low pass to his ankles. He flykicked the ball downfield where Sean Robinson picked up the ball and ran back. He was tackled but the Sharks got the ball back. As the ball was passed to Steyn, the referee called: "Advantage over." Steyn passed a skip pass to Pieter-Steph du Toit who passed to his left where Le Roux intercepted the pass and ran off to score the Cheetahs' second try. Burton Francis, who has not kicked well since his heroics against the Stormers, missed the comparatively easy conversion. Otherwise the Sharks would have had no log points at all from the match.
Not for the first time, the Sharks did not score a try. In fact they only once looked like scoring a try and that was right at the death when Paul Jordaan had the best run of the wet afternoon.
The Cheetahs nearly scored at the beginning when the Sharks knocked on and Piet van Zyl ran down the left touchline and grubbered infield. Cobus Reinach saved and looked to run out of trouble till Van Zyl ankletapped him. Van Zyl got the ball but lost it forward as he battled towards the line.
We are already talking about knock-ons. The handling did not work, but then neither did the kicking which was mostly not redeemable.
Tendai Mtawarira was helped off the field early on, his left leg in trouble. It was, it seems, an injury to his calf.
The Cheetahs attacked with Francis and Coenie Oosthuizen close. Le Roux chipped into in-goal but Raymond Rhule knocked on as he dived for the ball.
Reinach knocked on to Heinrich Brüssow who kicked the ball down the middle of the field. Jordaan got back to it but could not bring it under control. Instead Rhule flykicked the ball into the Sharks' in-goal and beat Andries Coetzee to score a try near the posts. 7-0 after 32 minutes.
The Cheetahs knocked a sloppy ball back from a line-out near their line and Du Toit grabbed it to set up some Shark bashing till they were penalised at a tackle. (It was not a match of many penalties - just five each.)
Twice the Sharks had eminently kickable penalties and twice they kicked for five-metre line-outs and each time the Cheetahs repulsed them. The third time, when Francis was penalised at a tackle on the stroke of half-time, they kicked at goal and Lambie scored. 7-3.
The first score of the second half happened after 24 uneventful minutes. Lappies Labuschagne was penalised at a tackle and Lambie made it 7-6
That is how it stayed for the next 14 minutes - till Le Roux knocked on and flykicked, Robinson ran back with the ball, the referee told everybody that advantage was over and Du Toit passed to Le Roux who scored. 12-6 after 78 minutes.
Francis kicked downfield into Shark territory. It was a kick which could have cost his side the match as Riaan Viljoen, who handled the wet ball best of any player on the field, ran it up in counterattack. Steyn passed it to Jordaan who accelerated through the Cheetahs on a 65-metre run till Le Roux tackled him. Jordaan laid the ball back and Coenie Oosthuizen, falling back kicked it away but only as far as Reinach. There was a tackle/ruck and the ball came back to Reinach who ran into waiting Cheetahs. For the fourth time in the match they held the ball-carrier up. The maul was unsuccessful and the referee blew the final whistle.
Man of the Match: Willie le Roux, not just because he scored a try and saved the try that would have cost his team the match. It was more than that - his quirky but skilful way of playing, his vision and his obvious enjoyment of the game.
For the Sharks:
Pens: Lambie 2
For the Cheetahs:
Tries: Rhule, Le Roux
Sharks: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Andries Coetzee, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Keegan Daniel (captain), 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Jannie du Plessis, 18 Jean Deysel, 19 Lubabalo Mtembu, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Francois Steyn, 22 Sean Robinson.
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Burton Francis, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Caylib Oosthuizen, 18 Rynhardt Landman, 19 Frans Viljoen, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Francois Brummer, 22 Ryno Benjamin.
Referee: Jonathon White (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Marius Jonker (South Africa),Stefan Breytenbach (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)