Sharks lucky to bag points away at Cheetahs
Free State underdogs almost came from behind again.
The Southern Kings surprised all and sundry with a well deserved 22-10 win over the Force in Port Elizabeth last night.
It was a better start than what their opponents had when they made their Super Rugby bow in 2006, which was a 25-10 defeat to the Brumbies in Perth and they were full value.
It will not get easier for the Force, who have a daunting trip to Loftus Versfeld to face the Bulls.
The Kings will have a week off to let their victory sink in before a clash with the Sharks in Port Elizabeth in two weeks time.
The Kings took an early lead through Sergeal Peterson but could not land kicks and that was punished by the Force, who replied through prop Pek Cowan after relentless pressure by the visitors. Wing Alfie Mafi got the second try in the 28th minutes, dotting down in the left corner after the Kings’ defence was stretched wide.
Meanwhile, the Sharks escaped with the points but that is how the Cheetahs are: good but without that killer punch.
It is a good thing rugby is more dependent on the hardness of the pitch rather than the quality of it. The Free State Stadium paddock was hardly a ground with test match pedigree.
The firm underfoot conditions provided the perfect running platform for the young fly half battle between Johan Goosen and Patrick Lambie.
They are a microcosm of how South African rugby should be in terms of allowing their vision to dictate terms.
In true South African colours, conservatism and percentage play, especially in Lambie’s case, was rewarded.
Any fly half worthy of Super Rugby should prosper with the Sharks’ forward dominance. In the end, especially after Goosen’s magic ignited the second half, the battle was all squared.
The Sharks have been traditionally slow starters and it set them back.
Oddly, they are often South Africa’s best travellers and the more points they bank before they cross the Indian Ocean, the easier the trip will be.
That will only be in April, though, when the Cheetahs jet off to Australasia. They have a date with the defending champions Chiefs on Saturday.
The Cheetahs will remain South Africa’s most enterprising side but their style needs to find substance and very quickly.
Other Super Rugby results yesterday:
Southern Kings 22, Force 10
Reds 25, Waratahs 17
Hurricanes 20, Blues 34
Bulls 25, Stormers 17
Rebels 13, Brumbies 30
Highlanders 27, Chiefs 41