The Sharks held on in the face of a powerful late surge by the Cheetahs to win 29-22 in an entertaining Super Rugby match in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
It was a game of great contrasts - moments of sublime brilliance and a patches riddled with schoolboy errors.
Overall the Sharks deserved their win, even though the Cheetahs outscored them by three tries to two.
The boot of Springbok flyhalf Patrick Lambie proved the difference.
In the first quarter the Cheetahs had almost 80 percent territory, but they made a handling error on average every three minutes - which would explain why they only held a five-point lead in that period.
The Sharks were not much better, making a handling error almost every minute.
Once the men from Durban had settled down, they showed their true worth with a series of powerful raids that saw them take a commanding first-half lead - 16-5 at the break.
What also helped the Sharks get control of the match was the Cheetahs' rickety set pieces. In the first half they won only two of their own line-outs, lost two to the Sharks and in a third the throw was not straight. Add to that a few scrum penalties and it is clear why the home team could not sustain their early pressure.
Springbok flyhalf Johan Goosen's poor kicking also did not help. He failed with all his first-half efforts and another after the break, while Sharks rival Patrick Lambie showed why he is a good bet for first-choice in the national team with a tactical masterclass and a flawless goal-kicking performance.
The Cheetahs finally found their running form late in the second half, after strike players like Coenie Oosthuizen, Johannes Prinsloo and Sarel Pretorius came off the bench. After trailing by more than 20 points, they got to within four, before a late Sharks rally sealed the win for the visitors.
In the fourth minute, after Francois Steyn was penalised in the tackle, Johan Goosen took a shot at goal from almost 60 metres out. However, he was well short and wide.
Five minutes later the Cheetahs were on the board - No.8 Philip van der Walt at the back of a powerful maul to which the Sharks had no answer to. Goosen was again wide with his kick - 5-0.
Patrick Lambie eventually got the Sharks on the board in the 21st minute, after the Cheetahs were penalised at the breakdown. That became 6-5 in the 26th minute and then 9-5 in the 28th minute, after the Cheetahs were repeatedly caught with their hands in a ruck.
Lwazi Mvovo then found acres of space at the back of a line-out, which was overthrown by the Cheetahs, and the Sharks flyer sprinted over almost untouched. Lambie added the extras - 16-5 on the half-hour mark.
The Cheetahs launched a few late raids in the half, but the Sharks' defence easily held them off.
Goosen failed with his third shot at goal early in the second half, before a strong Sharks maul saw Bok flank Marcell Coetzee getting his team's second try.
Lambie made that 26-5 with his fourth penalty after the Cheetahs' scrum collapsed in a heap.
This finally awoke the Cheetahs from their early-season slumber - Philip van der Walt producing a sublime back-handed pass to send Pieter Labuschagne over for the home team's second try. Goosen finally landed a kick to make it 12-26 going into the final quarter.
Minutes later Johann Sadie rounded Tendai Mtawarira to collect the Cheetahs' third try and with Goosen finally finding his radar - kicking a conversion and a penalty in quick succession - the gap suddenly narrowed to 22-26.
With four minutes remaining on the clock Lambie gave his team some breathing space with a penalty - 29-22. The visitors held on to that lead, despite another late rally by the home team.
For the Cheetahs:
Tries: Van der Walt, Labuschagne, Sadie
Cons: Goosen 2
For the Sharks:
Tries: Mvovo, Coetzee
Cons: Lambie 2
Pens: Lambie 5
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Frans Viljoen, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Trevor Nyakane.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Waltie Vermeulen, 19 Johannes Prinsloo, 20 Sarel Pretorius, 21 Elgar Watts, 22 Ryno Benjamin.
Sharks: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Francois Steyn (captain), 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Meyer Bosman, 22 Odwa Ndungane.
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jason Jaftha (South Africa), Tiaan Jonker (South Africa)
TMO: Gerrie Coetzee (South Africa)