Sharks draw in last minute.
Friday, February 01, 2008 - 20:15
On an exceptionally hot, dry and energy-sapping Bloemfontein afternoon, the Cheetahs and Sharks drew 24-all in a tightly-contested Super 14 warm-up match.
With a sprinkling of Springboks in either side and everyone keen to impress, both sides threw everything (including the kitchen sink) into this game and the 10 000 or so spectators were treated to some excellent patches of rugby.
While it might still be early days, and with no game time under the belts of either team, the skill levels and intensity were of a high standard.
With the new ELVs allowing for more passages of open play, the game was helter-skelter full of activity and energy and the intended consequence, to make the game more exciting, was already evident.
By the half-time break, neither side really held the upper hand as each enjoyed periods of dominance, although the Cheetahs had outscored the Sharks by two tries to one.
The first try of the match, from debutant Frank Wagenstroom was a beauty, crafted from intelligent play and then scintillating speed that saw him outstrip the defence to chase and score Waylon Murray’s clever grubber.
Juan Smith was always dangerous with ball in hand and showed just why he is so valuable to the Springbok cause. However, his forward pack failed to dominate the Sharks and their traditional rolling maul failed to materialize into an attacking option for them.
With both sides ringing the changes after the break, Ruan Pienaar joined Michalak behind the scrum and Johann Muller and Francois Steyn, amongst a host of others, made their way onto the field.
Frederic Michalak lasted 50 minutes before Francois Steyn shifted from centre to flyhalf and he was full value for the time he was on the field.
Charl McLeod, his halfback partner showed fine form distributing the ball well and made one or two sniping breaks that showed what a danger he is in broken play.
The early exchanges were again busy and a try apiece was scored in the opening quarter of the stanza, and it was perhaps the Sharks that started to look just that much more dangerous, enjoying more ball possession.
The home side though, to their credit, gave a very good account of themselves on defence during this period and the Sharks were unable to press home the advantage.
The game however was littered with penalties and free kicks with both teams still coming to terms with the new laws, and this did unfortunately impact on the flow of the game.
The Sharks almost sealed the business with a try in the final 10 minutes, but then conceded one to the Cheetahs with the clock running out.
With time up on the clock, Ruan Pienaar evened the scores with a 38m penalty - the tie a fair reflection of the match. Sharks:
Tries: Frank Wagenstroom, Jacques Botes, Robbie Harris
Conversions: Frederic Michalak (2), Ruan Pienar
Tries: Juan Smith, Duanne Vermeulen, Herkie Kruger, Fourie
Conversions: Jacques-Louis Potgieter (2)