Don’t expect to see the Sharks or the Cheetahs in the play-offs when the business end of the Vodacom Super 14 rugby season arrives in about two months’ time.
This was evident on Friday evening when the two South African franchises squared up in Durban and instead of thrilling fans, laboured on the fringe of boredom for 80 minutes before the Cheetahs ran out the victors by 25-20.
It was a game of two halves — to be expected as referee Jonathan Kaplan was replaced after half-time by Pro Legoete with Kaplan suffering from a stomach ailment.
With Legoete in charge, the Sharks went into overdrive and needed only four minutes to send Ryan Kankowski away for the home side’s first try. Rory Kockett missed the conversion.
But again things changed when Riaan Viljoen landed two long-range penalties to put the Cheetahs 19-14 ahead.
Kockett reduced the deficit to 19-17 with another penalty after another scrum infringement and then the game was on.
Naas Olivier landed a drop goal with about 10 minutes to go and the Sharks were in trouble. With the score at 22-17 in the Cheetahs’ favour, the hosts went offside at a ruck and Olivier made it 25-17.
Kockett, who had a miserable evening with the boot, landed another penalty at the death to earn his team an undeserved bonus point.
The highlight of a mistake-riddled first half was the 75-metre try by Cheetahs fullback Riaan Viljoen. He fielded a kick on his own 25 yard line and with hardly a finger laid on him, scored under the Sharks’ posts.
The rest was not much to write home about, as handling mistakes — mostly by international players — turned the game into a stop-start affair.
The scrums were not much better and the Cheetahs were frequently penalised for early engagements.
Kockett, who couldn’t retain his form of a 100% kicking record in last week’s wet game against the Chiefs, had an off day and probably cost his team the game. – Sapa