The Sharks withstood a brave second half comeback by the Cheetahs to win their Super Rugby opening round clash 29-22.
The Sharks, runners-up to New Zealand's Chiefs last season, led by 21 points with 30 minutes to go at sun-baked Free State Stadium before the Cheetahs finally came alive.
Tries from flank Pieter 'Lappies' Labuschagne and new centre Johann Sadie and two conversions and a penalty from fly-half Johan Goosen narrowed the gap to just four points 12 minutes from time.
Many in the 14,500 crowd were dreaming of a Cheetahs victory only for Sharks fly-half Patrick Lambie to complete a memorable individual performance with a close-range penalty.
The Cheetahs didn't give up; fullback Hennie Daniller sprinted forward to grab a kick-off and was stopped just short of the try-line and a turnover from lock Pieter-Steph du Toit stopped another promising home surge.
But all the Bloemfontein team had to show at the final whistle was a bonus point for losing by fewer than eight points -- not the ideal start with an Australasian tour starting next weekend against the Chiefs.