Cheetahs' record run continues
The Cheetahs continued their amazing run by recording a record-equalling fourth consecutive win, beating the hapless Rebels 34-16 on Saturday.
The Cheetahs continued their amazing run by recording a record-equalling fourth consecutive win, beating the hapless Rebels 34-16 in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The five tries to one victory follows their unprecedented three consecutive victories in Australasia - seeing them move into the top five in the standings.
It also compounded the Rebels' problems, who have been beset by a lack of discipline - both on and off the field.
The Cheetahs were forced into a late change, when Burton Francis replaced Riaan Smit - who tore his hamstring.
The intermittent rain made for testy conditions, resulting a change of tactics - with both teams making liberal use of the boot in the first half. After the break the Cheetahs kept the ball more in hand and scored four of their five tries in this period.
For the Rebels, who have had as many off-field issues to deal with as their on-field troubles, their set pieces continued to look rickety - specially in the scrums, where the Cheetahs managed to create enough pressure to score their first try from.
The visitors had their chances, but their hands all too often let them down - with captain Gareth Delve the biggest culprit.
The first real scoring chance went to the Cheetahs, after the Rebels went offside deep inside their 22 and the Cheetahs pressing hard. Francis made it 3-0 after 13 minutes.
James O'Connor had his first shot at goal in the 23rd minute, after Willie le Roux went offside 40 metres out, and he levelled the scores. Four minutes later that became 6-3 to the visitors, after the Cheetahs went offside in front of their posts.
Francis had a shot at goal on the half-hour mark, but he was wide of the mark.
The Cheetahs hit the front four minutes before the half-time break - Hennie Daniller going over in the left corner, after Sarel Pretorius pounced on a stray ball behind a retreating Rebels scrum. Willie le Roux and Johann Sadie were prominent in creating the space out wide for Daniller. Francis made it 10-6 with the conversion.
That's how it stayed to the break.
The Rebels held strong for the first 10 minutes of the second half, till a moment of brilliance from Robert Ebersohn put Raymond Rhule into space and over for the second try. The Cheetahs had taken the ball through numerous phases without making any real progress - till Ebersohn stepped a couple of opponents and then delivered a sublime back-handed offload to Rhule.
Francis added the conversion as the Cheetahs stretched their lead to 17-6.
O'Connor pulled three points back as the game approached the final quarter, with the referee ruling that a Cheetahs player handled the ball on the ground.
It was another moment of brilliance that brought the next try - when a high kick by replacement Piet van Zyl bounced favourably for captain Adriaan Strauss, who palmed it on to Willie le Roux, who sprinted clear for his team's third five-pointer. Francis' conversion attempt was wide, but at 22-9 and with 15 minutes left on the clock the Rebels had a huge mountain to climb.
It went from bad to worse for the Rebels minutes later when lock Luke Jones was yellow carded for a ridiculous late shoulder charge on Willie le Roux.
And the Cheetahs immediately made them pay for their poor discipline as Johan Sadie scored the bonus-point try - a scoring coming after a maul, a few quick phases and some good handling of testing conditions. This time Francis was on target - 29-9 with 10 minutes remaining.
Ryno Benjamin was next to score, again coming after the Cheetahs forwards had made some good ground, before good hands by the backs create the pace out wide. The conversion attempt was wide, but at 34-9 the Rebels were on the receiving end of another big drubbing.
There was a late consolation score for Cadeyrn Neville, when the Cheetahs failed to control line-out possession near their own line. O'Connor's conversion gave the visitors' scoreline some respectability - 16-34.
Man of the match: Rookie Jordy Reid had a very high workrate and was certainly the Rebels' most productive forward. Phillip van der Walt, Pieter Labuschagne, Heinrich Brussow, Francois Uys and Lodewyk de Jager did an enormous amount of work on defence. Trevor Nyakane was the Cheetahs most productive and effective forward in carrying the ball, while captain Adriaan Strauss was a bag of all-sorts. Burton Francis made a few errors, but for most part his tactical appreciation in the difficult conditions kept the Rebels pinned inside their half for long periods. Willie le Roux often popped up at flyhalf and now that he is starting regularly Johan Sadie is growing in his role at outside centre. However, Robert Ebersohn remained the axis around which the Cheetahs' backline functioned - epitomised in the stepping and off-load that resulted in Raymond Rhule's try. He wins our award.
For the Cheetahs:
Tries: Daniller, Rhule, Le Roux, Sadie, Benjamin
Cons: Francis 3
For the Melbourne Rebels:
Pens: O'Connor 3
Yellow card: Luke Jones (Rebels, 67 - foul play, late shoulder charge)
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 Johan Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Burton Francis, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Phillip van der Walt, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 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 Rynhardt Landman, 19 Johannes Prinsloo, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Ryno Benjamin, 22 Barry Geel.
Melbourne Rebels: 15 James O'Connor, 14 Richard Kingi, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Lachlan Mitchell, 11 Jason Woodward, 10 Angus Roberts, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Jordy Reid, 6 Gareth Delve (captain), 5 Luke Jones, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Paul Alo-Emile, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Nic Henderson.
Replacements: 16 Shota Horie, 17 Laurie Weeks, 18 Cadeyrn Neville, 19 Jarrod Saffy, 20 Scott Fuglistaller, 21 Nic Stirzaker, 22 Rory Sidey, 23 Tom English.
Referee: Glen Jackson
Assistant referees: Lourens van der Merwe, Stefan Breytenbach
TMO: Johan Greeff