Three tries each in Durban semifinal
The Sharks will travel to Newlands next week to face Western Province in the 2013 Currie Cup Final.
The team from Durban booked their place in the grand finale with a deserved 33-22 win over a willing Free State Cheetahs team at Kings Park on Saturday.
It was scrappy and feisty at times, but in the end the numbers on the scoreboard tell a story of their own.
There was a late change for the Sharks, with Dale Chadwick coming in for Tendai Mtawarira - despite the latter going out to warm up. There was no explanation for the change, with a suggestion that Mtawarira had been carrying an injury all week.
And in the Cheetahs team Piet van Zyl started ahead of Sarel Pretorius in the No.9 jersey, with the latter failing a late fitness test.
In the first half the game struggled to get going, with a string of errors and penalties turning it into a stop-start affair.
The scrums were very messy - with a succession of penalties, free kicks and resets further blighting the game.
Other aspects of the match that were cringeworthy included the Cheetahs' line-out and the Sharks' attacking play - the latter producing just one move of note in the first half, a Patrick Lambie show-'n-go that resulted in a try, but mostly just going lateral.
The lack of spectators seemed to be matched by the lack of enthusiasm on the field in the first 40 minutes.
After the break the teams became far more energetic and determined in their approach, although the errors still crept in.
However, it was a more entertaining second 40 minutes - especially in the flyhalf channels, when Patrick Lambie and Johan Goosen again put their considerable skills on display.
The game got off to the perfect start for the Cheetahs, with Pieter Labuschagne getting a try three minutes into the game - after the Sharks failed to clear the base and the visitors pounced like the scavengers they are. Riaan Smit's conversion made it 7-0.
The Sharks managed to narrow the gap to 3-7 minutes later, following a very questionable scrum penalty that Patrick Lambie slotted.
It was another scrum penalty, this time awarded to the Cheetahs, that produced the next scoring opportunity - Smit hooking it past the left upright.
Lambie also missed a very kickable penalty, in the 25th minute, as the game continued to meander along at no great pace.
The Sharks flyhalf slotted his second penalty just after the half-hour mark, after the Cheetahs were again penalised at the tackle.
Lambie showed some of his sublime skills to produce a sublime show-'n-go and strolled over for his team's first try. He added the conversion and a penalty right on the half-time hooter to give his team a 16-7 lead at the break.
Replacement Johan Goosen, back for his second match after another lengthy injury lay-off, opened the second half scoring with a penalty in the 47th minute.
With just under half-an-hour remaining Jacques Botes produced the turning point in the game - emerging at the Cheetahs' side of a ruck with the ball and driving over for a crucial try. Lambie's conversion made it 23-10.
It went from bad to worse after this, with the Cheetahs being reduced to 14 men after scrumhalf Piet van Zyl was sent to the sin bin for tripping.
Another scrum penalty, one of several that gave the impression the referee was guessing, allowed Lambie to make it a 16-point lead - 26-10.
Soon after the Sharks were down to 14 when hooker Bismarck du Plessis was caught stamping on a prone opponent.
And the Cheetahs used the penalty to score a try, Johan Sadie going over after Goosen had injected some pace into the backline and Robert Ebersohn produced the final pass. Goosen's conversion made it a nine-point game at 17-26.
However, the Sharks response was swift and brutal - Heimar Williams going over after a raid that had forwards punching hole and sucking in the defence, before quick hands put Williams over. Lambie's conversion made it a 16-point game again.
The Cheetahs continued to charge at the Sharks and with six minutes remaining Schalk van der Merwe went over after a series of forward raids and a quick-tap penalty. Goosen's conversion was wide - 22-33.
However, the Sharks skillfully ran down the clock, as they slowed the game down to a virtual walking pace and held on for a deserved win.
Man of the match: Lodewyk de Jager and Pieter Labuschagne were both full of energy, while the arrival of Johan Goosen soon after the half-time break brought some much-needed energy to the Cheetahs attack. Patrick Lambie had his moments and Pieter-Steph du Toit was a huge presence, while Marcel Coetzee had so much more than just a high workrate, producing some impressive ball-carrying stats. However, our award goes to Bismarck du Plessis, who made a big statement in his head-to-head encounter with Adriaan Strauss - his breakdown skills the most impressive aspect on the day. We give him this award, despite the silly yellow card.
For the Sharks:
Tries: Lambie, Botes, Williams
Cons: Lambie 3
Pens: Lambie 4
For the Free State Cheetahs:
Tries: Labuschagne, Sadie, Goosen
Cons: Smith, Goosen
Yellow cards: Piet van Zyl (Free State Cheetahs, 58 - foul play, tripping), Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks, 64 - foul play, stamping on a prone player)
Sharks: 15 SP Marais, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Louis Ludik, 12 Francois Steyn, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel (captain), 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Peet Marais, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Danie Mienie, 18 Stephan Lewies, 19 Jacques Botes, 20 Cobus Reinach, 21 Fred Zeilinga, 22 Heimar Williams.
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Riaan Smit, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Elgar Watts, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Boom Prinsloo, 5 Lodewyk De Jager, 4 Francois Uys, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Hercu Liebenberg, 17 Schalk van der Merwe, 18 Teboho Mohoje, 19 Freddy Ngoza, 20 Sarel Pretorius, 21 Johan Goosen, 22 Ryno Benjamin.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant Referees: Rasta Rasivhenge, Cobus Wessels
TMO: Deon van Blommestein