Defending champions ran rampant against a second string Sharks side
The Free State Cheetahs began their Currie Cup title defence with an empathic and convincing 47-12 win against the Sharks in Bloemfontein on Friday night.
Playing with their strongest team which was their Super Rugby team, the defending champions ran rampant against a second string Sharks side that failed to keep up with the speed and intensity of the home side.
The Cheetahs were ruthless from the onset and with their first foray into the Sharks red zone they scored with ease when Springbok flank Uzair Cassiem crashed over in the right hand corner in the 13th minute after fullback Clayton Blommetjies had carved the Sharks defence from almost the halfway line.
But the Sharks hit back eight minutes later when centre Sbura Sithole cantered over after captain and former Springbok flank Keegan Daniel latched onto a lineout throw to the back to dart almost half the field before offloading to another veteran in wing Odwa Ndungane who made the final pass to Sithole.
Blommetjies again showed his fleet-footed skills by dancing passed a handful of Sharks defenders before the home side were rewarded for their creative endevour with a try by skipper Francois Venter in the 30th minute to give the Cheetahs a 10 point lead.
The Cheetahs continued their dominance in the early exchanges of the second half with two successful penalty kicks from Marais before they upped the ante with a classic rolling maul try scored by replacement hooker Reinach Venter in the 58th minute.
Springbok wing Raymond Rhule, playing in his 50th Currie Cup match for the Cheetahs, all but sealed victory for his side with his 23rd career try in the competition in the 62nd minute.
Injury prone centre William Small Smith sprinted all of 60metres for the Cheetahs fifth try in the 70th minute after they had foiled another porous Sharks attempt at attack before replacement scrumhalf Zee Mkhabela sealed an emphatic win with a try at the death after Bandisa Ndlovu had scored a consolation try for the Sharks in the 74th minute.
Free State Cheetahs: Tries: Uzair Cassiem, Francois Venter, Reinach Venter, Raymond Rhule, William Small-Smith, Zee Mkhabela. Conversions: Neil Marais (3), Clayton Blommetjies. Penalties: Neil Marais (3). Yellow card: Uzair Cassiem (34th minute)
Sharks: Tries: Sibusiso Sithole, Bandisa Ndlovu. Conversion: Bernard Janse van Rensburg