Sharks book ticket to Cape Town
The Sharks booked their place in the Currie Cup Final with a 33-22 victory over the Free State Cheetahs at Kings Park on Saturday.
The Sharks will now travel to Cape Town next Saturday to face Western Province at Newlands in a repeat of last year's title decider.
Patrick Lambie shined brightest for the home side as he directed to the Sharks to their fourth consecutive final.
Although the final score in Durban may create the impression that it was a closer encounter, the writing was on the wall early in the second half when veteran flank Jacques Botes extended his team's half-time lead with a brilliant try which was set-up by Marcell Coetzee.
The Cheetahs could not have asked for a better start to proceedings as flanker Lappies Labuschagne crashed over in the third minute. This try came after number eight Philip van der Walt pounced on an attempted kick-through by full-back SP Marais.Van der Walt offloaded spectacularly to send the bulky flanker over, but the Sharks kept their cool and opened their account minutes later with a Lambie penalty.
Although Lambie would later miss one of the easiest attempts of his professional career, he showed great composure and made it a one-point match when the visitors were pinged for not rolling away at the breakdown.
While there were instances where the true quality of the two sides was on display, the first 30 minutes of the poorly-attended match failed to live up to expectations as both teams were guilty of making far too many unforced errors.
Both Springbok hookers Bismarck du Plessis and Adriaan Strauss failed to hit their line-out jumpers while uncertainty with regards to the referee's interpretation at the breakdown made it somewhat of a free-for-all.
Initially Cheetahs open-sider Boom Prinsloo was the pick of the loose-forwards, but as the match continued Coetzee and his colleagues took charge of that facet of play.
The more proficient plan of attack of the Sharks ensured that they gained territory despite the fact that the Cheetahs saw more of the ball early on.
As the end of the first half approached the Sharks managed to score from an attacking scrum near the Cheetahs line to take the lead.
Making up for his earlier blunder Lambie sold a dummy and slid past two Cheetahs defenders for the easiest of tries. He would eventually go on to score 22 of his team's points.
The Sharks enjoyed a 16-7 lead at half time and at that stage only Lambie had contributed to the score sheet.
After the break the Cheetahs changed their tactics and it looked as if the fly-half switch - Johan Goosen came on for Elgar Watts - was going to work to their advantage as Goosen knocked over a long range penalty.
Botes, however, had other plans and once he extended his team's lead to 23-10 with his try, the combination of ill-discipline and poor first time tackling were the reasons why both sides upped their scoring rate.
Cheetahs scrum-half Piet van Zyl was sin-binned for a trying to trip Marais.Lambie then extended the lead in the 63rd minute after Schalk van der Merwe was called for collapsing the scrum, before the numbers levelled up again when Du Plessis was yellow carded for stamping.
From the next scrum, the ball was quickly spun left with Robert Ebersohn sending Sadie away to give the Cheetahs hope.
That optimism was quickly killed off when Heimar Williams was one of a number of players free on the left to dart over to wrap up the win.
Even though Van der Merwe added a late score, it turned out to be only a consolation as the Durbanites booked their ticket to Newlands next week.
Tries: Botes, Lambie, Williams
Cons: Lambie 3
Pens: Lambie 4
For Free State Cheetahs
Tries: Labuschagne, Sadie, S. Van der Merwe
Cons: Smit, Goosen
Yellow card: van Zyl,
The Sharks: 15 SP Marais, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Louis Ludik, 12 Francois Steyn, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel (capt), 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Peet Marais, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Danie Mienie, 18 Stephan Lewies, 19 Jacques Botes, 20 Cobus Reinach, 21 Fred Zeilinga, 22 Heimar Williams.
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Riaan Smit, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Elgar Watts, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Boom Prinsloo, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Francois Uys, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Hercu Liebenberg, 17 Schalk van der Merwe, 18 Teboho Mohoje, 19 Freddie Ngoza, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Johan Goosen, 22 Rayno Benjamin.
Venue: Kings Park, Durban
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant referees: Rasta Rasivhenge, Cobus Wessels
Television match official: Deon van Blommestein
Assessor: Alan O'Connell