Flyhalf Curwin Bosch faced down his recent detractors when he booted 22 points (five conversions and four penalties) to lead the Cell C Sharks to a fine 47-30 victory over the Toyota Cheetahs at the Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The bonus-point win, courtesy of five excellent tries, enabled the Sharks to top the Carling Currie Cup Premier Division log after a sometimes niggly match in which Cheetahs’ skipper Ruan Pienaar received a yellow card in the middle of the first half.
The home team’s poor discipline and slack tackling at times certainly didn’t help their cause after they came into the match with heightened morale after their victory over Western Province on Wednesday.
The match began well for the Cheetahs, however, as their frantic start had their opponents on the back foot. After just five minutes, flyhalf Brandon Thomson’s judicious grubber enabled Springbok Sevens flyer Rosco Specman to dot down by the left corner flag.
The Cheetahs continued to dominate play with some aggressive defence but after some scuffles between the forwards, a cynical foul by Pienaar led to the scrumhalf being yellow-carded after 16 minutes.
This was all the visitors needed to strike back and the ever-active Werner Kok, again prominent in defence and attack, was on hand to finish off a flowing movement sparked by a break from prop Ntuthuko Mchunu who had a storming game for the Sharks.
Bosch, who had begun the match uncertainly with a missed penalty and a misplaced kick, duly nailed the first of five conversions to give the Sharks the lead.
The Cheetahs regained the lead with a penalty from flyhalf Brandon Thomson but the visitors struck twice before half-time with superb counter-attacking tries from deep by Grant Williams – after great work by Marnus Potgieter – and fullback Anthony Volmink after a searing break by wing Thaakir Abrahams.
To their credit, the Cheetahs emerged reinvigorated for the second half despite an early penalty from Bosch, and Thomson burst his way over for their second try in the 48th minute after his team had hammered away at the Sharks’ line.
The Cheetahs kept up the pressure with a great try five minutes later from Duncan Saal who somehow hung on to a clever grubber from fullback Clayton Blommetjies to dive over under great pressure in the right corner. The Cheetahs had now shrunk the difference to four points (23-27) but the Sharks eased ahead again with a second score by Williams who burst through after received an inside pass from the ever-threatening Mchunu.
The Sharks were now getting into their stride and increasingly freeing up their runners but it was now the turn of the Cheetahs to hit back against the run of play with a thrilling second try from Specman, who beat four men in an explosive, mazy run to score in the left corner.
With replacement flyhalf Reinhardt Fortuin kicking the resulting conversion, the match looked set for a tight finish with the Sharks clinging on to a four-point advantage with the final quarter awaiting.
The Sharks were forced into some desperate defence before Bosch once again provided relief, kicking a huge penalty from within his own half before finding a massive touch-finder from a penalty in his own half to earn the Sharks a lineout on the Cheetahs’ five-metre line.
Kerron van Vuuren duly muscled his way over the line from the maul after the set piece to effectively clinch the match with Bosch kicking the conversion from the touchline before putting the final nail in the home team’s coffin with a penalty on the final whistle.
Toyota Cheetahs (11) 30 – Tries: Rosco Specman (2), Branden Thomson, Duncan Saal; Conversions: Thomson, Ruan Pienaar; Penalties: Thomson, Pienaar
Cell C Sharks: (24) 47 – Tries: Werner Kok, Grant Williams (2), Anthony Volmink, Kerron van Vuuren; Conversions: Curwin Bosch (5); Penalties: Bosch (4) © MWP