Sharks stay on course for play-offs

The Sharks collected a crucial five points to keep alive their hopes of reaching the Super 14 semifinals with a 33-14 win over the Cheetahs on Saturday.

The Sharks scored two late tries by winger Odwa Ndungane for the bonus point to ensure they remain in contention for a last-four place with just one round of matches to come next week in the southern hemisphere inter-provincial rugby competition.

Ndungane scored a brace in the final two minutes, adding to the hat-trick by flanker Jacques Botes earlier on.

“We live to fight another day,” said captain AJ Venter. “It wasn’t easy, but we got the five points and that’s all that matters.”

The Sharks meet the high-flying Waikato Chiefs next weekend, in what appears to be a semifinal-deciding game. The Sharks moved into fourth place on the log, if only temporarily, with 37 points.

The home team enjoyed the bulk of possession in the first period and they created a fair number of opportunities to score the required four tries, but they didn’t get on to the scoreboard until the quarter-hour mark.

Ndungane was denied in the eighth minute after an infringement by number eight 8 Ryan Kankowski, but in the 14th minute flanker Jacques Botes went over for the first of his tries.

The unsung Sharks hero crashed over after his lock teammate Albert van den Berg had won the ball in the line-out and set up the drive towards the line.

The conversion by Rory Kockott made it 7-0 to the home side and a few minutes later they doubled their score when Botes got his second; the conversion by Kockott making it 14-0 to the home side.

The Cheetahs, though, would go into the half-time interval in upbeat mood after scoring a converted try, against the run of the play, moments before the break.

Winger Jongi Nokwe went over after being set up by his flanker, Heinrich Brussow, who launched a counter-attack when he fielded a ball kicked upfield by Sharks centre Frans Steyn.
The conversion by Conrad Barnard made it 14-7 to the home side after 40 minutes.

The Sharks, though, who continued to dominate proceedings after the restart, got their third try just a few minutes into the second period when Botes got his hat-trick.

The flanker went over after Steyn had found JP Pietersen with a long skip pass out on the wing, who fed a charging Botes on his inside to finish off the move without a hand being laid on him.

But a yellow card to Sharks player Albert van den Berg, following one to Cheetahs lock Rory Duncan in the first period, allowed the visitors to hit back with 15 minutes remaining when centre Meyer Bosman scored an easy five-pointer.

The big midfielder caught Kankowski napping at the back of a ruck, picked up the ball and dashed over the line almost untouched. The conversion by replacement Tewis de Bruyn closed the gap to just five points.

Then Ndungane grabbed his double, both converted by Kockott, to give the Sharks a vital win.—AFP

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