Steyn stars as Cheetahs keep Currie Cup double hopes alive

·3-min read
Francois Steyn (L) playing for Montpellier against Perpignan in a French Top 14 match last year before returning to South Africa and joining the Cheetahs.

Two-time Rugby World Cup winner Francois Steyn kicked 17 points as the Cheetahs overpowered the Sharks 37-10 Sunday to bolster hopes of back-to-back South African Currie Cup titles.

The 33-year-old centre converted tries by captain and lock Carl Wegner, hooker Marnus van der Merwe, winger Rhyno Smith and prop Boan Venter and slotted three penalties in Bloemfontein.

Steyn is renowned for long-range goal-kicking and one of his penalties in a flawless performance from the tee was struck from inside the Cheetahs' half.

The utility back won World Cup medals with South Africa in 2007 and 2019, one of only two Springboks to achieve the feat.

Cheetahs triumphed despite being shown three yellow cards, which reduced the side to 13 players at one stage in the second half when winger Rosko Specman and Venter were sin-binned.

The try by Venter in additional time was the most important as it earned the Cheetahs a bonus point for scoring three more than the Sharks.

Bulls top the table with 35 points and seem set to finish first, leaving Western Province (31), Lions (29), Sharks (28) and Cheetahs (26) fighting for three semi-finals places with two matches each to play.

The teams who come first and second enjoy home advantage in the penultimate stage of a competition first staged in 1892, making it the oldest provincial rugby competition in the world.

It was 33 degrees celsius (91.5 fahrenheit) when the match kicked off in Bloemfontein at a stadium empty because of the coronavirus pandemic, with a second wave sweeping South Africa.

- Water breaks -

Water breaks were taken midway through each half and each side used their eight replacements.

"It was crucial to win this match with a bonus point and we succeeded thanks to an amazing effort by the starters and those who came off the bench," said Wegner.

"We will celebrate tonight and from tomorrow start preparing for another vital home fixture, against Western Province next Saturday."

Sharks skipper and centre Lukhanyo Am offered no excuses as the Durban outfit suffered a second straight heavy defeat having lost by 15 points to the Lions in Johannesburg last weekend.

"Our discipline let us down as we conceded far too many penalties, which led to scoreboard pressure. Areas of concern include the set-pieces and the breakdowns."

The Sharks were given a torrid time in the scrums for most of the match and regularly surrendered possession when in promising attacking positions.

Wegner got the Cheetahs off to a great start with a 28-second try and after the Sharks equalised, the hosts methodically built a 27-10 half-time advantage.

A Steyn penalty was the only score of the second half until Venter dashed to the line almost three minutes after the hooter sounded to signal 80 minutes had elapsed.

On Saturday, Springboks hooker Bongi Mbonambi scored two tries off driving mauls as Western Province rose from fourth to second with a bonus-point 34-17 victory over bottom team the Griquas in Cape Town.

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