Cheetahs win in the Deep South

Sat, 09 Mar 2013 08:20
Large sarel pretorius v highlande Large highlanders v cheetahs2 Large highlanders v cheetahs

The Cheetahs produced the upset of the season when they beat the Highlanders 36-19 in Invercargill on Saturday.

The Cheetahs produced the upset of the season when they beat the Highlanders 36-19 in Invercargill on Saturday.

Possession is nine tenths of the law, they say. It may be true somewhere but not in the land of the Cheetah. Bloemfontein just has not heard it.

Against the Chiefs they had the majority of possession in the first half and scored only three points on the way to a hiding.

Saturday the Highlanders had some 70 percent of the possession and of territory and the Cheetahs smashed them.

All right, it was three tries each but the Cheetahs led from start to finish. But then they did something Cheetahs do not usually do.

They tackled. And how they tackled. They tackled three times as often as the Highlanders did and some of their tackling had great side effects. For example, they won the turnover count 18-10. And they took their chances.

That said, they could have done even better. Sarel Pretorius was away for a try and they were hauled back for some other infringement. Willie le Roux, playing wing these days, let a simple intercept fall when he would surely have scored.

There have been times in years past when the Cheetahs frittered away a handsome lead with poor defence and waning fitness. This was not the case this time.

One of the big differences in this match was the goal-kicking of Johan Goosen. He had been such a special goal-kicker till the first two matches of this year's Super Rugby. He missed three against the Sharks and then three against the Chiefs. This week  he kicked eight out of eight.

The Highlanders ran and looked as if they were threatening and yet the calm Cheetahs ran them down, coming up quickly and ruggedly on defence. Poor Lima Sopoaga had a nightmare evening. He kicked off the game's first kick-off directly into touch and repeated the dose later in the match. He was offside for three points and two of his mistakes gave the Cheetahs 14 points worth of tries. He was substituted after 37 minutes by Colin Slade who had a steady match after his long lay-off.

Much of the Cheetah success was due to the opportunism of scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius. He started them going  when the Highlanders were freekicked at a Cheetah scrum. Pretorius tapped and raced away. He gave to Le Roux who kicked, the bounce just too tall for Pretorius. But when Jake Paringatai was penalised at a tackle, Goosen goaled. 3-0 after 9 minutes.

Sopoaga hit the upright with a straightforward penalty, the ball bounced back and the Highlanders secured it to attack. They had an attacking line-out from a penalty and bashed again but the visitors held.

A penalty gave the Cheetahs a line-out near the half-way line on the left. They went wide right and then came back wide left where Adriaan Strauss gave to tall Lappies Labuschagne who stepped out of Joe Wheeler's attempted tackle and strode down the left. Confronted by Kade Poki he gave inside to Pretorius who scurried some 30 metres to score at the posts. 10-0 after 20 minutes, and again Sopoaga kicked directly into touch.

Big Brad Thorn tackled a player who did not have the ball. 13-0 after 23 minutes.

The Highlanders got full advantage of a Trevor Nyakane knock-on. They attacked but found no way through the flat line of the Cheetahs' defence till Sopoaga grubbered into in-goal where Poki got his first try. Sopoaga converted from far out. 13-7 after 26 minutes. That is as close as the Highlanders got.

Robert Ebersohn charged down a chip by Sopoaga, gathered the bouncing ball and raced off for a try at the posts. 20-7 after 29 minutes.

Two minutes later Sopoaga was offside at a kick and the Cheetahs led 23-7.

Sopoaga tried to pass to his left as he was being tackle. Le Roux knocked the ball back to Pretorius who raced some 68 metres for the try. 30-7 after 34 minutes.

Just before half-time Le Roux was perfectly placed for an intercept but dropped the ball. From the scrum the Highlanders' attacked and the Cheetahs were penalised five metres from their line but Paringatai was angry and the penalty was reversed.

The Highlanders won the second half 12-6 but it was nowhere near enough to make up the deficit.

Their first score came when they attacked wide right and Poki scored his second. 30-12 after 44 minutes.

On 50 minutes Heinrich Brüssow replaced Frans Viljoen., back after injuries and back as strong as ever.

Goosen kicked a penalty and Poki broke past Johann Sadie to score his third try. 33-19 with seven minutes to play.

Andrew Hore, back to lead the Highlanders in his 128th Super Rugby match was replaced by Brayden Mitchell who gave away a penalty. 36-19 with 5 minutes left.

Man of the Match: Not easy. There were assured Johan Goosen, opportunistic Sarel Pretorius, determined Adriaan Strauss and our choice - strong, vigorous Lappies Labuschagne who was always there where strong action was needed.

The scorers:

For the Highlanders:
Poki 3
Cons: Sopoaga, Slade

For the Cheetahs:
Pretorius 2, Ebersohn
Cons: Goosen 3
Pens: Goosen 5


Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Phil Burleigh, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Jake Paringatai, 7 John Hardie, 6 Joe Wheeler, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Ma'afu Fia, 2 Andrew Hore (captain), 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Brayden Mitchell, 17 Chris King, 18 Jarrad Hoeata, 19 Tim Boys, 20 Fumiaki Tanaka, 21 Colin Slade, 22 Buxton Popoalii.

Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 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 Rynhard Landman, 19 Heinrich Brüssow, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Riaan Smith, 22 Ryno Benjamin.

Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Kane McBride (New Zealand)
TMO: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)

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Team P W D L Pts
Brumbies 8 3 0 5 17
Reds 8 2 0 6 10
Force 7 2 0 5 9
Waratahs 8 2 0 6 9
Rebels 7 1 1 5 7
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Crusaders 8 8 0 0 36
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Chiefs 8 7 0 1 33
Highlanders 8 5 0 3 23
Blues 8 3 0 5 17
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Team P W D L Pts
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Bulls 8 3 0 5 14
Cheetahs 8 2 0 6 10
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Pool SA2
Team P W D L Pts
Lions 8 7 0 1 32
Sharks 8 5 1 2 24
Jaguares 8 4 0 4 20
Kings 8 2 0 6 10