Bosman puts seal on Sharks comeback
Centre Meyer Bosman completed an impressive Sharks comeback by scoring the try and conversion that secured his team a narrow but ultimately deserved 34-32 ABSA Currie Cup win over the Cheetahs at Mr Price Kings Park on Saturday evening.
The Sharks had trailed for most of the game and looked well out of it at halftime after conceding two soft tries in quick succession late in the half. But although they gave away more soft points in the second, they protected their possession far better and scored the four tries that enabled them to take full points from the game.
It was in the balance in the last 10 minutes, and when the Cheetahs were on the attack between the 70th and 75th minutes and they led 32-27, it looked as though the Bloemfontein team might score an upset win.
While the Sharks had spent most of the second half on attack, they still gave away soft points, and Cheetahs flyhalf Sias Ebersohn might well have been the man of the match had his team won for his two well taken drop-goals and the brilliantly directed kick that put wing Nico Scheepers in for a try that kept the Cheetahs ahead just when the Sharks looked well back in it.
But the Sharks have impressive resolve these days, and they don’t give up easily. A brace of tries from Odwa Ndungane to follow an early second-half try in the corner from Riaan Viljoen cut what at one stage had been a 16 point deficit to just five. And when centre Paul Jordaan scythed through the middle with five minutes to go it created just the opportunity the Sharks needed.
The Kings Park faithful would have had their hearts in their mouths as in a few instances it looked as though the Sharks might butcher their big advantage in numbers as they built up, but eventually Bosman was put over for the try that drew the scores level. The former Cheetah then capped a fine allround performance -- his goalkicking was also spot on all game -- by kicking the conversion that clinched it with just over four minutes left on the clock.
On balance the Sharks did enjoy more scoring opportunities and on that basis they deserved to win, but the Cheetahs deserve credit for the way they controlled the scoreboard battle for long periods before the Sharks got their second wind later in the game.
If there was to be a movie about the match, coach John Plumtree’s halftime speech would almost certainly have forced it to be age-restricted. It was easily the team in black and white’s worst half in a while, at least if you discount the Super Rugby final, where they had the excuse of being travel weary.
This video is not available in your region
It was a bizarre 40 minutes in the sense that the Sharks were in the Cheetahs 22 far more often than the Cheetahs visited their own red zone, and yet it was the Cheetahs who led 21-6 at halftime. The Sharks just made far too many mistakes, with handling errors frequently breaking down their attempts to gain momentum.
There were no less than five occasions where they coughed up the ball through elementary errors when a try could have been possible in the first 30 minutes of the game, and then there were also two penalties that they conceded at the breakdown in the attack zone. So the Cheetahs were allowed to wriggle off the hook defensively, and in direct contrast to their opponents, they made full use of their opportunities when they came.
Whereas the Sharks, playing into the teeth of a strong south-westerly in the first half, were guilty of not protecting their ball, and the loose forwards simply didn’t gel as a unit in the initial stages, the Cheetahs were better at holding onto possession when it came their way. Although their flyhalf Ebersohn did knock on a ball early on, he was outdone by his opposite number Rian Viljoen, who did it repeatedly.
Bosman put the Sharks into the lead with a fourth-minute penalty but they had to wait until beyond the half hour mark before they scored again. In the meantime the Cheetahs scored nine points through two Nico Scheepers penalties and a well struck drop-goal from the pivot, Ebersohn.
Ironically, it was just when the Sharks seemed to be assuming a measure of control, with skipper Jean Deysel starting to drive impressively, that the game swung emphatically in Free State's favour. It was just after Bosman had kicked a penalty from in front to cut what had been a six point deficit to three points that the Sharks presented the visitors with a gift of a try.
Trying to run the ball out from near their own tryline after the Cheetahs had restarted with a long kick, flank Jacques Botes dropped the easiest of passes and Sarel Pretorius was through to gather and score near the posts.
Suddenly the Cheetahs’ lead was a healthy 10 points, and it became 15 just two minutes later as Sharks scrumhalf Charl McLeod was turned over at a ruck well inside the Cheetahs’ half and the Cheetahs quickly moved the ball to the left to create the overlap. It wasn’t much of a numerical advantage, and was more a question of space, but it was enough for Cheetahs left wing Raymond Rule to go round S’bura Sithole.
Sithole definitely doesn’t lack pace, so Rule showed an impressive turn of speed in opening up the gap on his chaser to run two thirds of the length of the field.
Playing with the wind behind them, the Sharks were much better after halftime, with what initially appeared to be a dubious decision to kick for touch when presented with a kickable penalty eventually being vindicated when Viljoen went over the corner to ensure there would be a contest.
Sharks – Tries: Riaan Viljoen, Odwa Ndungane (2) and Meyer Bosman; Conversions: Meyer Bosman 4; Penalties: Meyer Bosman 2.
Cheetahs – Tries: Sarel Pretorius, Raymond Rhule and Nico Scheepers; Conversion: Nico Scheepers; Penalties: Nico Scheepers 3; Drop-goals: Nico Scheepers.