Ice cool Pienaar ensures parity

Ruan Pienaar kicked an injury-time penalty to earn the Sharks a 24-24 draw against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

Both sides played some enterprising rugby on a warm evening and outside of a number of unforced handling errors, both will be pleased with what they achieved.

The Sharks opened the scoring in the 11th minute through new signing Frank Wagenstroom, who blitzed Gavin Passens in chasing down a Waylon Murray grubber. Frederic Michalak, in his first Sharks match, converted.

The Cheetahs, however, dominated possession and territory and their pressure reaped rewards when Juan Smith crossed soon after. The hosts were clearly not interested in employing conservative tactics, and crafted a move that drifted from one side of the field to the another before Duanne Vermeulen found himself free on the flank to score in the corner. Meyer Bosman added his second conversion of the match to give the Cheetahs a 14-7 half-time lead.

Sharks flanker Jacques Botes drew his side to within two points with a try after the break, before Herkie Kruger restored the Cheetahs’ lead.

The teams sparred with each other for the remainder of the half, both creating opportunities to score, only to be let down by early season rust. The Sharks looked a good bet for the win when Duminsane Matyeshana scored a converted try with eight minutes remaining, but the Durban side had a kicked charged down six minutes later that resulted in a try. With the score at 24-21 to the Cheetahs, the conversion was missed, which proved to be a decisive moment in the match.

The Sharks were awarded an injury-time penalty which Ruan Pienaar duly slotted from 38m out to earn his side a draw.

Cheetahs - Tries: Juan Smith, Duanne Vermeulen, Herkie Kruger, David de Villiers, Conversions: Meyer Bosman (2)

Sharks - Tries: Frank Wagenstroom, Jacques Botes, Duminsane Matyeshana, Conversions: Frederic Michalak (2), Ruan Pienaar, Penalty: Pienaar