Sharks cruise past hapless Free State into top spot
CURRIE CUP REPORT: The Sharks cruised past a willing Free State Cheetahs team, winning 45-15 in Durban on Saturday, to overtake the visitors at the top of the standings.
It was the first game for the Cheetahs without the players who started their Pro14 campaign with a loss against Ulster on Friday.
And the lack of experience - even at Currie Cup level - showed up, the Sharks outscoring the Cheetahs by seven tries to two.
The Cheetahs had a good start and could have had the lead inside the first 10 minutes.
However, as was the case for most of the game, their lack of composure saw therm unable to finish off any of the opportunities they created.
In contrast the Sharks - despite not being flawless - were far more accurate than the visitors.
To their credit, the young Cheetahs team kept on trying and were eventually rewarded for their endeavours with their first try - by replacement Marco Mason - in the 65th minute.
Although the Sharks eventually won handily, the Free State youngsters began brightly with the home team unable to get their hands on the ball in the opening minutes.
When the Sharks did get into the Cheetahs' half, they made it count, however, with Lukhanyo Am diving over in the right-hand corner after nine minutes following some excellent interpassing by the Sharks' backs and forwards.
Nevertheless, the Cheetahs more than held their own in the first quarter with flyhalf Ryno Eksteen converting a penalty to restrict the men in black and white to a narrow 5-3 lead.
That was as good as it got for the visitors, however, with the Sharks finally clicking into gear as they ran in another three tries - and a bonus point - before half-time.
A feature of the Sharks' play was their off-loading and quick hands through the ball as they tried to spread the ball wide at almost every opportunity.
While this tactic led to a number of handling errors, it also enabled prop Johnny Meyer, fullback Inny Radebe and scrumhalf Louis Schreuder to cross the whitewash before the turnaround.
The Sharks continued to dominate in the second half, with man-of-the-match Sibusiso Nkosi contributing a brace of tries while debutant centre Marius Louw scored with his first touch after coming on midway through the half.
Flank Keegan Daniel, whose 114 caps for the Sharks was more than the total number of caps of the opposition, was particularly impressive in his linking play.
The young Cheetahs, with many of their players making their Currie Cup debuts, never let their heads drop, however, with flank Daniel Maartens particularly impressive in the loose, and they thoroughly deserved their two late tries from Marco Mason and Luther Obi as the game inevitably opened up and became looser.
Man of the match: The Sharks, almost to a man, were superior to their opponents. And every player made a significant contribution to the big win. Our award goes to hard-working Sharks flank Jacques Vermeulen.
For the Sharks:
Tries: Am, Meyer, Radebe, Schreuder, Louw, Nkosi 2
Cons: Radebe 3, April 2
For the Free State Cheetahs:
Tries: Mason, Obi
Sharks: 15 Inny-Christian Radebe, 14 Tythan Adams, 13 Jeremy Ward, 12 Lukhanyo Am, 11 Sibusiso Nkosi, 10 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Lubabalo Mtembu, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Ruan Botha (captain), 4 Tyler Paul, 3 John-Hubert Meyer, 2 Armand van der Merwe, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Replacements: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 Jean Droste, 19 Wian Vosloo, 20 Michael Claassens, 21 Marius Louw, 22 Garth April.
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Reinhardt Erwee, 14 Carel-Jan Coetzee, 13 Jacobus Jonker, 12 Stephan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Luther Obi, 10 Ryno Eksteen, 9 Juan-Philip Smith, 8 Japer Wiese, 7 Chris Dry (captain), 6 Junior Pokomela, 5 Dennis Visser, 4 Nicolaas Immelman, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Reinach Venter, 1 Gert Kotze.
Replacements: 16 Elandre Huggett, 17 Andrew Kuhn, 18 Sibabalo Qoma, 19 Ntokoza Vidima, 20 Daniel Maartens, 21 Dian Badenhorst, 22 Marco Mason.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant referees: Ben Crouse, Archie Sehlako
TMO: Marius Jonker
* Pictured by Wayne Seagreen