Sharks go top with bonus-point win over Cheetahs

rugby19 May 2023 19:14| © MWP
By:David Knowles
Aphelele Fassi © Gallo Images

The Cell C Sharks sit on top of the Currie Cup log after a 35-23 bonus-point win against the Toyota Cheetahs in round 11 of this year’s competition, at Hollywoodbets Kings Park on a fresh and chilly Friday evening.

With 80mm of rain falling over Durban in the past 24 hours, it was soft and wet under foot but the Sharks always had the edge and stayed ahead on the scoreboard from the seventh minute when flyhalf Lionel Cronje slotted a penalty after the Cheetahs had started the stronger of the two sides and put the Sharks under early pressure.

The lead was extended in the 14th minute when the `Weekend Express’ Aphelele Fassi, playing on the wing, scored the opening try after 14 phases from the Sharks had stretched the Cheetahs’ defence. Cronje added the extra two points and the Sharks had laid an early foundation with a handy 10-0 advantage.

Cheetahs lock Sibabalo Qoma was shown a yellow card in the 17th minute by referee Marius van der Westhuizen after a dangerous tackle but the Sharks failed to capitalise with the extra man and it was the Cheetahs who scored next, opening their account with a penalty from the boot of veteran flyhalf Ruan Pienaar. (10-3)

Just before the half hour mark, the Sharks crossed the line for their second try after good work from wing Yaw Penke who broke a couple of tackles before kicking ahead for centre Alwayno Visagie to run through, collect the ball and dive over.

Cronje dragged the conversion wide (15-3) but made amends in the 33rd minute with another three-pointer. (18-3)


Needing to try and score before the break, the Cheetahs opted to kick for the corner rather than aim for the uprights when awarded penalties deep in Sharks territory and it paid dividends in the 37th minute when Qoma went from villain to hero as he took a tap penalty from close to the line and barged through the Sharks defence. Pienaar converted to have the Cheetahs eight points adrift at 18-10.

In first-half injury time,Cronje opted for a kick at goal after the Sharks had launched 10 phases at the Cheetahs and the teams headed for the changerooms with the Sharks 21-10 ahead.

An early Pienaar penalty (21-13) in the 44th minute, was cancelled out with the Sharks’ third try in the 53rd minute, scrumhalf Tiaan Fourie picking up from close and diving under the poles for an easy Cronje conversion. (28-13)

Pienaar kept the Cheetahs’ hopes alive with a penalty in the 63rd minute (28-16) but a yellow card to hooker Louis van der Westhhuizen for repeated collapsing of the scrum saw the Sharks scent blood, hooker Dameon Venter driving over from a maul in the 73rd minute for the vital bonus point try. Cronje’s conversion (35-16) saw him reach the milestone of 200 career Currie Cup points.

With some fire still left in the tank, the Cheetahs fought to the death, flank Daniel Maartens scoring his sixth try of the campaign in the 77 minute, Siyabonga Masuku converting, but it was too little too late as the Sharks sealed the win, Cronje attempting to rub salt in the wounds with an attempted drop goal in the 80th minute which went wide.

Sharks 35: Tries 4 (Fassi, Visagie, Fourie, Venter); Conversions 3 (Cronje); Penalties 3 (Cronje)

Cheetahs 23:Tries 2 (Qoma, Maartens); Conversions 2 (Pienaar, Masuku); Penalties 3 (Pienaar)

Sharks: 15 Nevaldo Fleurs, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Murray Koster, 12 Alwayno Visagie, 11 Aphelele Fassi, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Tiaan Fourie, 8 Henco Venter, 7 James Venter, 6 Dylan Richardson, 5 Reniel Hugo (captain), 4 Jeandre Labuschagne, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Fezokuhle Mbatha, 1 Khwezi Mona. Replacements: 16 Dameon Venter, 17.Dian Bleuler, 18 Hanro Jacobs, 19 Marco de Witt, 20 Sikhukbuzo Notshe, 21 Celimphilo Gumede, 22 Bradley Davids, 23 Marnus Potgieter

Cheetahs: 15 Tapiwa Mafura, 14 Daniel Kasende, 13 David Brits, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Cohen Jasper, 10 George Lourens, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 George Cronje, 7 Friedle Olivier, 6 Gideon van der Merwe, 5 Victor Sekekete (captain), 4 Rynier Bernardo, 3 Hencus van Wyk, 2 Marnus van der Merwe, 1 Schalk Ferreira. Replacements: 16 Louis van der Westhuizen, 17 Nqobisizwe Mxoli, 18 Dolph Botha, 19 Sibabalo Qoma, 20 Daniel Maartens, 21 Siyabonga Masuku, 22 Rewan Kruger, 23 Evardi Boshoff

Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen