The Toyota Free State XV held on for a nail-biting 12-10 win over the Sharks XV on Friday evening to retain their unbeaten record in the Super Sport Rugby Challenge.
The home side took the lead in just the second minute of the crunch match when the impressive centre, Tertius Kruger, crashed over in the right corner.
Last weeks’ man of the match, Ernst Stapelberg, was not able to convert the conversion from the touch line.
For the next 34 minutes neither side could really capitalise on their opponents mistakes and by the same token, neither was able to convert their chances into points.
The Free State was the happier of the two teams when the hooker, Reinach Venter, powered over for the hosts second try shortly before the half time break.
This time Stapelberg made no mistake with the conversion to hand the Free State a 12-0 lead at the break.
The Sharks were the better of the two teams on attack during the second stanza, however, the Free State’s defence was simply outstanding.
The Free State defence finally cracked in the 60th minute when the Sharks eighthman, Tera Mtembu, crossed the white-wash to get the men from Durban on the board. The flyhalf, Danrich Visagie, added the extra two points.
The Sharks maintained the pressure and with 8 minutes to play, Visagie, chased a penalty through the uprights to make it a two-point game. The Free State defended non-stop in the final 10 minutes, and were saved after the full time hooter when a Sharks knock-on brought an end to the game.
The Free State coach, Daan Human, was delighted with the teams’ character and told OFM Sport he will take an ugly win on any day.
“A win is a win and we will take it. Look, a Free Stater is a very thankful human being and we will take anything that comes our way. Yes, it wasn’t pretty, but we will take it.
“At the end of the day there are plenty of positives. We will go and work on the things that we need to.
“We all and this includes myself as a coach, have a lot to learn about this game. We could have left the field without a point, but we will take the four points.
“I think that this team showed a tremendous amount of character. In those last 10 minutes we defended non-stop, and if a team can play poorly and still win, just imagine the possibilities.
“I’m very positive about this team, and I see the glass as half full and not half empty.”
The Toyota Free State XV will host the Down Touch Griffons on Friday evening at the Toyota Stadium in their next match.
Toyota Free State XV: Tries – Tertius Kruger, Reinach Venter Conv. – Ernst Stapelberg.
Sharks XV: Try – Tera Mtembu Conv. – Danrich Visagie Pen. – Visagie. – MORGAN PIEK