Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Sharks and Cheetahs triumph over Lions and Pumas in Currie Cup

In the earlier game the Cheetahs picked up an important 29-14 bonus point win over the Pumas to secure a home semi-final.

The table topping Sharks and Cheetahs produced strong performances to defeat the Lions and Pumas in their Currie Cup clashes on Saturday night.

In the match at Kings Park in Durban, the Sharks had to weather an early storm from the Lions before fighting back for a 29-21 bonus point win that put them back on top of the log ahead of the final weekend of pool fixtures.

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In the match the Lions got of to a fast start as some strong play in the Sharks 22m led to early tries to replacement flank Emmanuel Tshituka and prop Ruan Dreyer, both forcing their way over from close range, with scrumhalf Sanele Nohamba adding both conversions for a 14-0 lead after 16 minutes.

But the Sharks fought back superbly over the rest of the half, with hooker Fez Mbatha crashing over from close range in the 28th minute, followed by a 36th minute intercept try to wing Aphelele Fassi, both converted by flyhalf Lionel Cronje to see the sides level pegging at the break.

It was an exciting opening 10 minutes to the second half as replacement prop Ntuthuko Mchunu crashed over for a converted score, followed by Nohamba sniping over and converting, with the sides locked at 21-all after 48 minutes.

However it was the Sharks who had the better of the final 30 minutes, as Mchunu went over for his second and the bonus point try in the 72nd minute, followed by a 78th minute penalty to fullback Nevaldo Fleurs which sealed the win in the end.

Home semi-final

In the earlier game the Cheetahs picked up an important 29-14 bonus point win over the Pumas to secure a home semi-final ahead of next weekend’s final round of pool stage action.

The Cheetahs came into the match off a rough run of two losses and then a draw against the Griquas over the past weekend, so were eager to claim a positive result, which they did with a strong performance at the Mbombela Stadium.

It was a game dominated by lineout action in the 22m areas as five of the six tries between the two sides came from that position.

It was the Pumas who struck first from a lineout maul, with hooker Corne Fourie breaking off and going over for the converted score, followed by Cheetahs flank Gideon van der Merwe dotting down at the back of one in the 16th minute to make it 7-5.

The Cheetahs then moved ahead with two tries in the space of four minutes, with a lineout move ending with scrumhalf Rewan Kruger going over, followed by a huge maul powering over for hooker Marnus van der Merwe to dot down.

Both tries were converted by flyhalf Ruan Pienaar, giving the Cheetahs a 19-7 lead which they took into the halftime break.

It was a scoreless first 22 minutes of the second half, before a Pienaar penalty put the Cheetahs further ahead, followed by a penalty try to the Pumas bringing them back into the game at 22-14 after 65 minutes.

But strong defence from the Cheetahs over the last 15 minutes allowed them to keep the Pumas out and then set a final lineout on the fulltime hooter, with replacement loose forward George Cronje crashing over for the bonus point score.