Cheetahs make history
Sat, 06 Jul 2013 14:35
First time ever in the play-offs
The Cheetahs reached the Super Rugby play-offs for the first time when they beat the Blues 34-13 in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The lack of a four-try bonus point means they will most likely have to travel in the play-offs.
However, they will say it is job done - they needed a win to secure their place in the top six and that is what they did.
The pressure of the occasion showed, as the Cheetahs nervously fumbled their way through most of the game - occasionally showing the entertaining brand they have become know for, but almost to scared to back themselves all the way.
The Cheetahs had the upper hand in the scrums, with the Blues heavily penalised in the set piece in the early stages of the game. That kind of dominance is always a good platform for a team desperate for victory.
The home team also managed to spoil a lot of the Blues' attack by holding up runners, turning it into a maul and then winning a turnover.
Both teams looked keen to run the ball, but the Cheetahs let themselves down with throwing a few too many 50-50 passes - which cost them three or four additional tries.
The Blues, although looking very threatening on attack, failed to control the hard-earned possession and often handed the ball back to the Cheetahs.
It may also have been influenced by the Cheetahs' aggressive defensive line, constantly forcing the visitors to play behind the advantage line.
The Cheetahs' biggest problem was that they did not always protect their ball well enough at the breakdown - with lots of slowed down possession and a good few turnovers.
The Cheetahs got on the board first, a Riaan Smit penalty in the second minute, but the Blues showed how dangerous they can be on the counter - rookie scrumhalf Jamison Gibson-Park going over for the first try, after the visitors exposed the Cheetahs' fractured defence. Baden Kerr added the conversion - 7-3 after five minutes.
Smith made it a one-point game when he slotted a penalty after the Blues scrum again collapsed in a heap.
That dominant scrum brought the Cheetahs more reward just as the game entered the second quarter - a heel against the head and Philip van der Walt picking up and barging over. Smit's conversion made it 13-7.
A scrum penalty to the Blues soon afterwards allowed Kerr to narrow the gap to 10-13. That was followed by a penalty against the Blues No.9, Gibson-Park, for obstruction and Smit made it a six-point (16-10) game again.
And four minutes from the break the Cheetahs won another scrum penalty five metres out, Smit making it 19-10 - which was the score at the break.
The first real scoring opportunity after the break came in the form of a penalty against Heinrich Brussow in the 58th minute, Kerr making it a six-point game - 13-19.
However, Smit pulled the three points straight back, after Kevin Mealamu went offside at a ruck.
The Cheetahs, despite becoming more nervous and error-prone, got the breathing space they had looked for six minute from time - replacement scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius sniping around the edge of a ruck for his team's second try. Smit's conversion meant the Blues had to score two converted tries and a penalty to regain the lead - 29-13.
However, the Cheetahs scored next - Johannes Prinsloo working his way over from a ruck five metres out after line-out maul inside the Blues 22. Elgar Watts, on for Smit, was wide with the conversion attempt - making the final score 34-13.
Man of the match: Frank Halai and Rene Ranger were always dangerous with ball in hand, although they just didn't see enough of the ball. Philip van der Walt and Pieter Labuschagne were the most productive bal carriers for the Cheetahs. Heinrich Brussow's work on defence was phenomenal and Coenie Oosthuizen was also an effective bundle of energy. However, our award goes to Cheetahs star Willie le Roux, who may have made a few errors, but injected himself into the game in such an exciting manner and effective manner - popping up everywhere, at scrumhalf, first receiver and even covering at fullback.
For the Cheetahs:
Tries: Van der Walt, Pretorius, Prinsloo
Cons: Smit 2
Pens: Smit 5
For the Blues:
Pens: Kerr 2
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Riaan Smit, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Rynhardt Landman, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Petrus Vermeulen, 19 Johannes Prinsloo, 20 Sarel Pretorius, 21 Elgar Watts, 22 Rayno Benjamin.
Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Francis Saili, 11 Rene Ranger, 10 Baden Kerr, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Ali Williams (captain), 4 Anthony Boric, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 James Parsons, 1 Sam Prattley.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Culum Retallick, 19 Brendon O'Connor, 20 Wayne Ngaluafe, 21 Marty McKenzie, 22 George Moala.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Ben Crouse (South Africa), Francois de Bruin (South Africa)
TMO: Gerrie Coetzee (South Africa)
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