A 20-20 deadlock was broken in the final two minutes with a try by Sharks right wing Kobus van Wyk but it had been a grubber by Aphelele Fassi, gathered by Lwazi Mvovo and returned to the fullback, with a basketball-style pass, that had created the field position for the Sharks to score on the other flank following a number of phases.
The win kept the Sharks’ hopes alive – with two matches remaining for them in the DirectAxis Financial Services-sponsored competition – while the Cheetahs’ second successive defeat saw them at least take a losing bonus point as they remained in the play-off places.
The Cell C Sharks had been the first to get on the scoreboard when they were rewarded for a bright opening five minutes when Curwin Bosch drove a penalty through the uprights in the gusting, windy conditions from halfway out on the right.
The lead was stretched in the 12th minute when they added a superb team try, finished by left wing Lwazi Mvovo. The Sharks ran the ball from their own 22 and after great inter-play between backs and forwards encompassing five phases, Bosch floated a high pass over a stretched Cheetahs defence for Mvovo to jog in unopposed from five metres.
Bosch converted to put the Sharks into a 10-0 lead but it was short-lived with the visitors getting their first points four minutes later. The Cheetahs had spoilt one opportunity from a 10-metre lineout but this time there was no error as burly hooker Joseph Dweba bullocked through two tackles on the right flank to finish off an eight-phase sequence of play.
The Cheetahs took the lead for the first time seven minutes before the interval as the visitors began to swing the territory and possession statistics in their favour. An attempted clearance by Sharks fullback Aphelele Fassi was charged down by influential Cheetahs scrumhalf and captain Tiaan Meyer to force an attacking scrum.
The Sharks resisted manfully for half a dozen phases before outside centre Ben Janse van Rensburg forced his way through a tackle from close range to score a try that Louis Fouche converted to give the visitors a 12-10 lead.
The Cheetahs pressed for the remainder of the half in search of their third try and were on the Sharks’22-metre line when they lost the ball forward in contact, Jacques Vermeulen flicked it backwards through his legs for the electrifying pace of Fassi to scorch 80 metres straight downfield past the flailing arms of would-be tacklers to score the crossbar. Bosch converted to give his side what had looked an unexpected 17-12 lead.
Replacement Sharks hooker Craig Burden was yellow carded for dangerous use of the shoulder in an attempted clean out in the 48th minute, which had the doubly damaging impact of wiping out a ‘try’ that had resulted half a dozen phases later after Terra Mtembu jogged in from another floated Bosch pass after extended pressure on the Cheetahs line.
The Cheetahs were unable to capitalise on their numerical superiority and had only a Fouche penalty to show during the period while Bosch missed with a 40-metre penalty attempt but then landed a drop goal from the same distance.
Those were the only scores in the first half hour of the second half until Cheetahs right wing Care-Jan Coetzee dived over in the corner after a succession of attacks had been rebuffed in centre field. Fourie’s touchline conversion was short and wide and leave the score locked at 20-20 with less than ten minutes remaining.
That’s the way it remained until the final two minutes and the decisive score form Van Wyk.
Cell C Sharks 27 (17), Toyota Cheetahs 20 (12)
Cell C Sharks: Tries: Lwazi Mvovo, Aphelele Fassi. Kobus van Wyk. Conversions: Curwin Bosch (2), Rhyno Smith. Penalties: Bosch. Drop goal: Bosch.
Toyota Cheetahs: Tries: Joseph Dweba, Ben Janse van Rensburg, Carel-Jan Coetzee. Conversions: Louis Fouche. Penalties: Fouche.