The Cheetahs dominated all aspects of the contest
The Eastern Province Kings were given a huge reality check when the Free State Cheetahs smashed them 53-14 in the first of their two promotion-relegation matches in Bloemfontein on Friday.
The Cheetahs will play in the Currie Cup in 2014; the Eastern Province Kings will not. That much is obvious.
It would take a cataclysmic accident or a Lazarus-raising miracle to change that. In Port Elizabeth next week the Kings will have to win with a bonus point and score at least 40 points more than the Free State Cheetahs to get into the Currie Cup. They are not going to do so. And it it is writ bold upon the wall that this is not their last hiding.
The Kings lost by 39 points and in the end the score may well have flattered them. The Cheetahs were much too good at everything. They scrummed and line-outed better, they tackled better and contested the tackles better, they handled better and kicked better. But above all they did things so muck more quickly than the Kings of the lower division. Their reactions were much faster.
There was a little burst of about eight minutes when they scored two tries and got to within 15 points of the Cheetahs but it was a false spring. There was no summer to follow.
It took the Cheetahs four minutes to get scoring and they kept on doing it, one felt whenever they wanted/needed to.
Raymond Rhule's concoction apart, they were simple tries.
The first maul of the match produced a turnover scrum for the Cheetahs, their first bit of possession. They used it to set up phases and passed the ball wide right where Nico Scheepers scored in the right corner. 5-0 after 4 minutes.
Falie Oelschig kicked pointlessly downfield to Rhule. The Cheetahs countered, Sarel Pretorius chipped and they went through phases to the left where prop Ross Geldenhuys sold a dummy that his father Piet would have been proud of and scored. 10-0 after 13 minutes - for the Cheetahs missed the conversion of four of their first five tries.
The Cheetahs tapped a penalty five metres from posts but lost the ball to a turnover. The Kings kicked out and from a line-out on the left Phillip van der Walt scored on the right. This time Sias Ebersohn converted. 17-0 after 25 minutes.
In these two promotion-relegation matches bonus points count and the Cheetahs got theirs when Rhule set it in motion. Tall and fast he set off on an elegant run that took him round two defenders and then swerving inside the third before handing to Andries Strauss who had an unimpeded run to the line. There was a world of difference between the class of regal Rhule and all the Kings.
The half-time score was 24-0.
From a line-out on the right fullback SP Marais broke inside Scheepers and between Andries Strauss and Robert Ebersohn to set the Kings attacking and Devin Oosthuizen burst over for a try. 24-7 after 46 minutes. But then the Cheetahs decided to go and score a try. They did phases and Andries Strauss got his second. 29-7 after 51 minutes.
The Kings came on the attack, the Cheetahs were penalised, the Kings tapped and young Shane Gates of Uitenhage scored in the left corner. 29-14 after 54 minutes.
Here ended the Kings' burst for victory.
At one stage the Cheetahs lost two players in trying to make one tackle. Andries Strauss and Sias Ebersohn both went for Wayne Stevens. Both were hurt and both went off. Tewis de Bruyn replaced Sias Ebersohn, Phillip Snyman Andries Strauss.
Paul Perez came to life with a strong run which suggested that there was life in the Kings still but then Whitehead passed to his left and Adriaan Strauss intercepted. He strode for 60 metres down the field for the try. 36-14 after 56 minutes. In 10 minutes each side had scored two tries.
De Bruyn kicked a penalty, the Cheetahs bashed and Rayno Benjamin enjoyed surfing over for a try. 46-14.
De Bruyn kicked a penalty out for a five-metre line-out. The Cheetahs mauled, the Kings infringed and the referee awarded a penalty try. He also sent Charl du Plessis to the sin bin, where he stayed for the last five minutes of the match.
Man of the Match: Pick whatever Cheetah you like but our man is eighthman Phillip van der Walt who can create and destroy.
For the Free State Cheetahs:
Tries: Scheepers, Geldenhuys, Van der Walt, Andries Strauss 2, Adriaan Strauss, Benjamin, Penalty try
Cons: Scheepers 2, De Bruyn 3
Pen: De Bruyn
For the Eastern Province Kings:
Tries: Oosthuizen, Gates
Cons: Whitehead 2
Yellow card: Charl du Plessis (Eastern Province Kings, 75 - professional foul, collapsing a maul)
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Nico Scheepers, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Phillip van der Walt, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Hendro Scholtz, 5 Izak van der Merwe, 4 Francois Uys, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Marcel van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Hercu Liebenberg, 17 Schalk van der Merwe, 18 Carl Wegner, 19 Davon Raubenheimer, 20 Tewis du Bruyn, 21 Phillip Snyman, 22 Rayno Benjamin.
Eastern Province Kings: 15 SP Marais, 14 Paul Perez, 13 Wayne Stevens (captain), 12 Shane Gates, 11 Michael Killian, 10 Wesley Dunlop, 9 Falie Oelschig, 8 Cornell Du Preez, 7 Wimpie van der Walt, 6 Devin Oosthuizen, 5 David Bullbring, 4 Reynier Bernardo, 3 Clint Newland, 2 Hannes Franklin, 1 Jaco Engels.
Replacements: 16 Frank Herne, 17 Andre Schlechter, 18 Wayne van Heerden, 19 Mpho Mbiyozo, 20 Charl du Plessis, 21 Scott Mathie, 22 George Whitehead.
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan
Assistant referees: Lesego Legoete, Rasta Rasivhenge
TMO: Gerrie Coetzee