Cheetahs 20 Sharks 34
Sharks playemaker Frederic Michalak. Photo: Getty Images
Late inclusion Frederic Michalak scored 19 points as the Sharks kept alive hopes of a Super Rugby play-offs place with a 34-20 triumph over the Cheetahs on Saturday.
The former France Test half-back star started the all-South Africa match in the southern hemisphere provincial championship when fly-half Patrick Lambie failed a late fitness test.
Michalak converted tries by right wing JP Pietersen, himself, left wing Lwazi Mvovo and replacement back Meyer Bosman and also slotted two penalties from three attempts at a chilly Free State Stadium in this central city.
Cheetahs managed only one try from livewire hooker and captain Adriaan Strauss while fly-half Riaan Smit kicked three penalties and his replacement, Sias Ebersohn, two for a team that trailed 21-14 at half-time.
Winning with a bonus point lifted Sharks two places to sixth -- the last of three play-offs positiions -- and the Durban franchise must have a chance of staying among the top six with three of four remaining fixtures at home.
The Chiefs and Crusaders of New Zealand,Bulls and Western Stormers of South Africa and Brumbies of Australia are looking good for knockout places.
The other place appears to rest between Highlanders and Hurricanes of New Zealand, Sharks and defending Queensland Reds of Australia, who have recovered from an early-season slump.
"It was a great to get a bonus-point victory after a typically physical battle between two South African sides," said Sharks eighthman and skipper Keegan Daniel.
His gamble after the hooter sounded for half-time proved crucial as he opted to run a close-range penalty near the posts and Springbok Mvovo went over wide out for a try Michalak converted.
A penalty from the Frenchman on 46 minutes stretched the advantage to 10 points before Ebersohn succeeded twice to leave just four points separating the teams by the hour mark.
Sharks lifted their game and Michalak kicked his second penalty before a brilliant Mvovo break took him close to the try line and a quickly recycled ball sped along the line for Bosman to go over in the corner.
Cheetahs deserved more for a typical adventurous performance and fought hard for a late try that would have garnered a bonus point, but a multi-phase post-hooter raid petered out and Sharks scrum-half Charl McLeod kicked to touch.
SHARKS 34 (Meyer Bosman, Frederic Michalak, Lwazi Mvovo, JP Pietersen tries Michalak 4 cons 2 pens) bt CHEETAHS 20 (Adriaan Strauss try Riaan Smit 3, Sias Ebersohn 2 pens) at Vodacom Park. Referee: Jonathan Kaplan.