sharks left treading water

THE Sharks must be sick of the sight of the Cheetahs.

The visitors from Bloemfontein proved once again that they have the Sharks' number by beating them 25-20 in a Super 14 match in Durban on Friday night -captain John Smit's 100th in Super rugby for the franchise- and might have put paid to their title hopes as early as the second match.

The Cheetahs, meanwhile, still have to prove that they can beat teams not named the Sharks and threaten the competition's traditional superpowers.

The Sharks showed early intent to run the ball, opting to spread play from deep inside their 22m area and stretch the Cheetahs defence. But they were let down by some sloppy handling, and soon that early confidence began to subside.

One of the positives for the home side was the impact of Smit's switch from prop to his old position of hooker.

Sharks coach John Plumtree looked shell-shocked after the loss, their second at home in two weeks.

"It could be a good thing to get out of town," he said. "Everyone will be writing us off."

Plumtree blamed the loss on a lack of self belief and on ill-discipline, which also cost them against the Chiefs two weeks ago.

"It' looks like the old Sharks. We went into our shells. Maybe we went wide a bit early and we missed kicks. We kicked the ball away too early. We looked good when we moved the ball. Discipline also let us down," he said.

"We're trying to be ambitious and score points but when the pressure is on we got into our shells."

While trying to remain positive Plumtree admitted that the Sharks are "a bit behind where we need to be". And there's no time to catch up.

"We'll take this win. We're considering making this stadium our home now," joked Cheetahs team manager Eugene van Wyk.