The Free State Cheetahs grabbed the early lead and never let go to register a 32-18 victory over the Blue Bulls in Bloemfontein on Friday.
The Cheetahs won and they deserved to win this lively Currie Cup match, and they did it above all with two weapons - shoulder and a boot.
You watched the Cheetahs play in Super Rugby, play well, even thrillingly, but lose because tackling was not a part of their game. Then they started to tackle and on Friday night in Bloemfontein they tackled themselves to a great victory.
The other weapon was the boot of Riaan Smit, the 28-year-old from Springs, playing wing this week but he could be anywhere else next week as they strive to keep him there for that boot. He had seven kicks at goal and nailed everyone of them.. In the final reckoning the teams scored two tries each but the Cheetahs won 32-18, the difference Smit's boot.
Oh, the Blue Bulls helped him as they were penalised so often, apart from the many turnovers they conceded.
It took the Cheetahs just over 40 seconds to score their first try. They kicked off, the Blue Bulls conceded a turnover, the Cheetahs bashed and Andries Ferreira bashed all the way over. 7-0 after 44 seconds.
Three penalties - in the sequence Smit, Louis Fouché, Smit - took the score to 13-3 after 25 minutes. It was not all that was happening as both sides sought to run, the Blue Bulls, incredible to relate, more than the Cheetahs.
The Blue Bulls attacked down the right with great purpose and then moved wide right where CJ Stander had a bit of an overlap with 24 metres to run. Deceptively strong, he thumped off Hennie Daniller and was over in the corner in Pieter Labuschagne's tackle for a try which the TMO confirmed. From touch Fouché converted.
The TMO, a Bloemfontein man, was called on again. as the Cheetahs countered off a Blue Bulls chip and Smit was over in the right corner.. But, extended TMO protocol at work, the referee referred the matter to the TMO who reported a forward pass from Sias Ebersohn to Sarel Pretorius way back downfield and so the try was cancelled.
But Smit was still there and when Fouché ignored the requirement to be 10 metres back from a tapped penalty Smit banged it over yet again. 16-10.
The Cheetahs attacked through many phases and the Blue Bulls were penalised five metres from their line. Pretorius tapped and the Cheetahs bashed over and over again till, the half-time siren gone, Kabamba Floors skidded through for the try, two minutes into injury time. 23-10.
Barry Geel was penalised at a tackle and then his immediate opponent François Venter was penalised at a tackle. 26-13 after 46 minutes.
The Blue Bulls were having the better of the game and were confident enough to prefer a five-metre line-out to kicking at goal, but lost the line-out.
After Fouché had missed a drop, he kicked deep, Smit gathered and passed infield to Daniller of the booming left boot. The tall fullback, under no pressure, knocked on but the home side weathered the storm and instead went through many phases, getting closer and closer, till they were over the line but held up. Back the referee went to a penalty. 29-13 after 56 minutes.
Jürgen Visser countered brilliantly from an up-and-under and the Cheetahs returned the attack through many phases.
The Blue Bulls brought on two young backs - Jan Serfontein, who ran with great courage, and moustached Lionel Cronjé.
Serfontein bust and was close to the line. From him it went wide right where Stander was unmarked and the strong man sauntered over for the try. 29-18.
Pretorius scampered over for the try but was tackled (high) en route and penalised. The only other score was a penalty goal by Nico Scheepers to make it 32-18 with less than a minute to play.
Man of the Match: Andries Ferreira scored a try, tackled relentlessly and had a great game. Sarel Pretorius, back where he belongs, was magnificent, always at the right place, always making the right decision, always demanding the full attention of the Blue Bulls. But our man of the Match is the one with the boot that laid the golden victory - Riaan Smit.
For Free State Cheetahs:
Tries: Ferreira, Floors
Cons: Smit 2
Pens: Smit 5, Scheepers
For Blue Bulls:
Tries: Stander 2
Pens: Fouche 2
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Riaan Smit, 13 Robert Ebersohn (captain), 12 Barry Geel, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Kabamba Floors, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Frans Viljoen, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Hercu Liebenberg, 1 Trevor Nyakane.
Replacements: 16 Elandré Huggett, 17 Schalk van Merwe, 18 Francois Uys, 19 Davon Raubenheimer, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Philip Snyman, 22 Nico Scheepers.
Blue Bulls: 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Ulrich Beyers, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Clayton Blommetjies, 10 Louis Fouché, 9 Ruan Snyman, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Grant Hattingh, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Cornell Hess, 4 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 3 Frik Kirsten, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Dawie Steyn.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 Franco Mostert, 19 Warwick Tecklenburg, 20 Lohan Jacobs, 21 Lionel Cronjé, 22 Jan Serfontein.
Referee: Sindile Mayende
Assistants: Marius Jonker, Reuben Rossouw
TMO: Gerrie Coetzee