One try each
The Sharks cemented top spot in the Super Rugby standings with a 19-8 win over the Cheetahs in a scrappy match on Saturday.
It was one try apiece at the Kings Park Stadium in Durban, with the boot of Frans Steyn proving to be the difference.
Based on the superiority of their pack, the Sharks strangled the Cheetahs into submission, with Steyn kicking three penalties an a conversion to seal the victory.
While the Sharks were keen to play deep inside the Cheetahs half, making liberal use of the boot, the Cheetahs opted to play at pace and run from deep in the first half.
The Cheetahs, when they kicked before the break, did so with a bit more purpose than the Sharks - especially in employing little chip-kicks over the home team's rushing defensive line.
The Sharks' most effective form of attack was their rolling maul - which not only made plenty of metres, but also won a number of penalties. Their scrums were another dominant aspect in which they earned a number of penalties.
For some reason the Cheetahs kicked a lot more in the second half, which played into the hands of a Sharks team happy to engage in a kicking contest and go from set piece to set piece.
Having lost veteran Springbok JP Pietersen, who pulled out shortly before the match with a groin injury, the Sharks were dealt another blow when Tonderai Chavhanga left the field with a hamstring strain in the first half.
The Cheetahs, in turn, lost star lock Lodewyk de Jager midway through the first half with a fractured finger.
From the kick-off the Cheetahs were penalised at the first breakdown, but rookie Tim Swiel pushed it wide of the mark from almost in front.
In the fifth minute Sibusiso Sithole was penalised at a ruck and Elgar Watts was on target - the Cheetahs taking an early 3-0 lead.
Just after the half-hour mark the Sharks eventually drew level with a Swiel penalty, for a late tackle by Johannes Prinsloo. He had a chance to put his team level right on the half-time hooter, but was again wide and it left the teams tied at the break.
Frans Steyn, who had taken over the goal-kicking from the misfiring Swiel, slotted penalties in the 46th and 50th minutes - both coming from scrum infringements by the Cheetahs.
The game was turned on its head when Heinrich Brüssow was yellow-carded for what referee Jaco Peyper termed to be a professional foul. Steyn slotted the conversion to make it 12-3 after 63 minutes.
From the restart Steyn's kick was charged down by Hennie Daniller and Rayno Benjamin followed up to get the game's opening try. Watts was short with the conversion, but at 8-12 the Cheetahs were back in the game.
However, Jean Deysel got his team back in a commanding position when he barged over from close range. Steyn's conversion made it 19-8 with just under 10 minutes remaining.
The Cheetahs were now playing for a losing bonus point, but their high error count prevented them from building any momentum and allowed the Sharks to hold on for a deserved win.
Man of the match: Willie le Roux looked more at ease on the wing, having been moved to No.11 at the last minute. Adriaan Strauss had his best game of the year, including some crucial turnover penalties. Heinrich Brüssow showed exactly why he is so highly rated, and not just as a poacher at the breakdown, putting in a few monster hits. Tendai Mtawarira had the crowd on their feet a number of times, with at least one 30-metre run showing the big man has some real pace for a prop. Frans Steyn's experience is what kept the Sharks from imploding, while his kicking boot kept them ahead on the scoreboard. However, our award goes to the Sharks' tight forwards - Stephan Lewies, Willem Alberts, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis and Tendai Mtawarira - who that sapped the Cheetahs' energy - especially in the scrums.
For the Sharks:
Pens: Swiel, Steyn 3
For the Cheetahs:
Yellow card: Heinrich Brüssow (Cheetahs, 61 - professional foul, killing the ball)
Sharks: 15 Lwazi Mvovo, 14 Jaco van Tonder, 13 Sibusiso Sithole, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Tonderai Chavhanga, 10 Tim Swiel, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Willem Alberts, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (captain), 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Etienne Oosthuizen, 20 Ryan Kankowski, 21 Stefan Ungerer, 22 Heimar Williams, 23 SP Marais.
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Rayno Benjamin, 11 Willie le Roux, 10 Elgar Watts, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Jean Cook, 7 Johannes Prinsloo, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Nicolaas van Dyk, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Rossouw de Klerk, 19 Andries Ferreira, 20 Teboho Mohoje, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Riaan Smith, 23 Raymond Rhule.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Marius Jonker (South Africa)
TMO: Deon van Blommenstein (South Africa)