Sharks book playoff spot
Sun, 15 Jul 2012 11:24a.m.
The Sharks booked a place in the Super 15 rugby playoffs as they ran in four second-half tries to beat South African rivals the Cheetahs 34-15.
The Sharks went into the match needing to win by at least five points to advance, and looked vulnerable at halftime when they trailed 15-6.
However, winger JP Pietersen masterminded a superb turnaround in the second half, setting up two of the home side's tries to secure a playoff berth for a second straight year and eliminate the Wellington Hurricanes.
The Sharks, who have reached three finals and never won, will travel to Australia to meet defending champion Queensland.
A tryless first half saw flyhalves Frederic Michalak and Riaan Smit trade penalties, as a nervous-looking Sharks side failed to click into gear.
Sharks fullback Patrick Lambie came closest to scoring, but he failed to pick up an awkwardly bouncing ball just meters from the tryline four minutes before the break.
With Smit adding his fifth penalty on the stroke of halftime the Sharks had it all to do, and they narrowed the deficit four minutes into the second period when Keegan Daniel beat Robert Ebersohn with a sharp sidestep to score the first try of the match.
The home side took the lead for the first time 14 minutes later when Pietersen's brilliant run opened up the Cheetahs, and a deft chip ahead allowed Charl McLeod to score.
Suddenly the Sharks were rampant, and Pietersen proved the architect once again as they extended their advantage through flanker Marcell Coetzee.
The winger claimed an up-and-under to take the Sharks up to the 22-metre line, before Coetzee picked the gap in the Cheetahs defense to storm through and score.
Ryan Kankowski secured the four-try bonus point with six minutes remaining when he timed his run to perfection, putting the result beyond doubt.
Michalak missed a late penalty attempt for the Sharks, but it did not matter as they completed a second-half shutout in front of a jubilant homecrowd.
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