Flyhalf Pat Lambie sent a firm reminder to Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer about his abilities in the number 10 jersey as he steered his Sharks team to a 33-22 win over the Toyota Free State Cheetahs in their Absa Currie Cup semifinal in Durban on Saturday.
Lambie scored 22 points as he set up a repeat of last year’s Currie Cup final against Western Province next week in Cape Town, and a reason for the Sharks to aim to reverse the results of this season where they haven’t beaten Province in their two league outings.
But on a night in Durban where the rain threatened but didn’t materialise, much like the home-crowd support for the Sharks, the Cheetahs were unable to cope with the Sharks' attack and made mistakes at crucial times that cost them dearly.
And then there was Lambie’s genius behind the scrum, where the blond flyhalf made all the right moves and showed that when he is in his preferred position he is definitely a force to be reckoned with.
With a performance like that, Lambie is knocking on the door at the right time, as the national selectors will meet this week, and while he has been preferred as a bench option this year, his game did the talking on Saturday to remind all that he wants a starting spot.
Both sides lost players before the kickoff – the Sharks missing out on Jannie du Plessis and Tendai Mtawarira, while the Cheetahs lost Sarel Pretorius – but despite this, it didn’t take away from an absorbing game of rugby.
And it was the visitors that started with a bang, as not two minutes into the game, SP Marais’ grubber kick was charged down, with the loose ball picked up by Phillip van der Walt who sent Lappies Labuschagne away for the opening try.
Both sides made inroads and probed for most of the half, but the defence was too good to keep them out.
Lambie’s boot dictated most of the half, with the flyhalf collecting the points with two penalties to bring his team within one point, before a bit of magic swung the game their way.
Two minutes before halftime the flyhalf took the ball up and in a classic show and go, found an open hole and darted through to give his team the lead.
Another penalty on the stroke of halftime and the Sharks led 16-7 at the break and in full control of the game.
Johan Goosen made his appearance in the second half and immediately slotted a penalty for his team in the first scoring action of the half.
But the Sharks simply upped the ante, and through some great interplay, Marcell Coetzee took the ball up before offloading to Jacques Botes to go over for the second try of the match.
Another Lambie penalty and the writing started appearing on the wall. The Cheetahs weren’t about to give up though and thanks to a great break by Robert Ebersohn and some superb finishing by Johann Sadie, they were back on the scoreboard.
But their hope wasn’t to last long as the Sharks were back on the attack, sucking in defenders and with a huge overlap, Heimar Williams scored his third try in the competition by straightening the line and using the man advantage to his advantage to score.
Prop Schalk van der Merwe crashed over from close range to give his team a chance, but their handling errors, and inability to breach the Sharks' defence when they needed to, counted against them as the home side closed out the game with ease.
Sharks - Tries: Pat Lambie, Jacques Botes, Heimar Williams. Conversions: Lambie (3). Penalties: Lambie (4).
Free State Cheetahs - Tries: Lappies Labuschagne, Johann Sadie, Schalk van der Merwe. Conversions: Riaan Smit, Johan Goosen. Penalty: Goosen.