Sharks survived a dramatic comeback to begin their Super 15 campaign with victory over Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
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The visitors dominated the first half but if Pat Lambie had not steadily kicked 19 points then Sharks might have come undone after the break.
John Plumtree's Cheetahs scored one try more than their opponents with Philip van der Walt, Lappies Labuschagne and Johann Sadie going over in response to efforts from Lwazi Mvovo and Marcell Coetzee, with Johan Goosen kicking seven points.
Sharks did start brightly but they missed the chance to build a heftier early lead when Mvovo was stopped inside the Cheetahs' 22.
The hosts then missed a penalty as Goosen kicked well wide when Frans Steyn failed to release Hennier Daniller in the tackle.
Cheetahs did open the scoring, though, Van der Walt dotting down under a mass of bodies after his team had launched a driving maul five metres from Sharks' try-line.
They would not score again in the first half and Sharks slowly pulled away with a succession of penalties before Mvovo's try on the half-hour mark.
Lambie had already kicked the visitors into a 9-5 lead thanks to three penalties awarded for ruck infringements, with Frans Viljoen culpable for the first.
Cheetahs were under the cosh and Mvovo soon capitalised on a loose ball tapped from a line-out by Ryan Kankowski to race past Cheetahs defenders before going over.
Lambie added two points from the conversion and Willie Le Roux missed the chance to reduce the deficit when he kicked an attempted drop-goal wide of the posts before the break.
Sharks pressed on after the interval, with Coetzee diving over with the ball after Jacques Botes unloaded having been stopped just short of the try-line.
Lambie converted to make it 23-5 and the 22-year-old put three more points on the board when Lourens Adriaanse was penalised for a scrum infringement.
With 59 minutes played Cheetahs got back among the tries, Labuschagne getting over for his first Super Rugby try after Van der Walt had surged through the Sharks defence.
Goosen's first accurate kick of the match sailed through the posts and Cheetahs made it 17-26 when Sadie took the kicker's pass to beat Tendai Mtawarira and dot down in the corner.
The extras came through Goosen and all of a sudden Cheetahs were back in the game.
A Sharks infringement allowed Goosen to narrow the gap to four points with 12 minutes remaining and the visitors were livid when Pieter-Steph du Toit was called back for putting a foot into touch after diving in for a try.
Lambie confirmed the away victory, though, when he completed a personal haul of 19 points with a late penalty after Boom Prinsloo had infringed at a ruck.