Cheetahs land a knock-out blow

Sat, 12 Oct 2013 16:58
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The Free State Cheetahs knocked the Blue Bulls out of the Currie Cup play-off race.

The Free State Cheetahs knocked the Blue Bulls out of the Currie Cup play-off race.

Outscoring them by three tries to one in a bruising encounter in Bloemfontein on Saturday, the Cheetahs won 22-7 - resulting in their finishing fourth on the standings, ahead of the Bulls.

The Currie Cup is not for sissies. Certainly this match - hard, uncompromising, intense and physical - was not for sissies.

It was as hard a game of rugby as you will find anywhere and there were times when the tension was agonising to watch, especiallyas the Blue Bulls went for the four tries,  which was one of their basic needs if they were to make the play-offs - victory with four tries and no points for the Free State Cheetahs. For all their efforts, the Blue Bulls did not come close to achieving their goal.

The Blue Bulls' main obstacle was the hard, direct tackling of the Cheetahs, a team who for years had an open-door policy to attackers. This time they shut them out over and over again as the men from Pretoria chose tries over penalty kicks at goal. But they tried five-metre scrums and they tried tapped penalties but, bar one occasion, the Cheetahs kept them at bay. The defence was magnificent.

The scrums were not magnificent as they kept on falling. In the second half there were six penalties at scrums, five against Cheetahs whose experiment of playing Coenie Oosthuizen did not work, not at tighthead. The Cheetahs had a front row of Springboks. Till Werner Kruger came on the Blue Bulls had had no Springboks up front.

In fact penalties conceded was a huge negative for the Cheetahs - 17-6 against them.

The other characteristic of the match was the repeated involvement of the TMO.

You would have thought that the Blue Bulls backs, from 10 to 15, would have been much better than the Cheetahs' backs but the Cheetahs' backs were more effective.

The first sign of this was in the scoring of the first try of the match. The Blue Bulls kicked and Raymond Rhule set a counterattack in motion. The Cheetahs went right and left and then right and further right where Elgar Watts broke between Paul Willemse and Jan Serfontein. He raced down the field till confronted by Jürgen Visser. Watts threw a perfect pass to Robert Ebersohn on his right and the centre raced on for 20 metres or so to score. 7-0 after 8 minutes.

The Cheetahs nearly scored again when, from a turnover, Sarel Pretorius broke and Rhule and Trevor Nyakane carried it on but Boom Prinsloo was held up over the line. From the five-metre scrum the Cheetahs attacked again till Bjorn Basson intercepted and looked set to race the length of the field, but he was penalised for offside and Watst goaled. 10-0 after 13 minutes.

Visser had a long break when he took a reverse pass from Handré Pollard but Rhule caught him when a try looked imminent.

Twice the Blue Bulls spurned changes to goal penalties. Once they had a five-metre line-out and once they tapped. but on each occasion they yielded a turnover.

From a Blue Bulls line-out Watts intercepted a pass from Paige and gave to Ebersohn. Tackled he got the pass away to Pretorius who was tackled. Jono Ross went in at the side and the referee blew to penalise him. Paige would not release the ball to Pretorius and a moment of high emotion started bubbling. At the end of it Paige was sent to the sin bin and the penalty against the Blue Bulls was reversed to a penalty for them as Oosthuizen came in from afar to express his anger with Jacques du Plessis.

With 14 men the Blue Bulls scored a try, something they failed to do with 15 men in the rest of the match.

Adriaan Strauss had a messy throw into a line-out which became a scrum to the Blue Bulls who attacked with zest. The Cheetahs were penalised and the Blue Bulls bashed again and this time Marcel van der Merwe surged over and scored. 10-7, and it was half-time.

The early part of the second half belonged to the Blue Bulls. They bashed from a five-metre line-out and they bashed from a five-metre tap but the Cheetahs scored.

Jan Serfontein tried a chip over Watts but instead chipped to Watts who raced some 40 metres to score. 17-7 after 53 minutes.

With 15 minutes to play Johan Goosen came onto the field after his long injury break and was as cool and effective as ever he was. Piet van Wyk came to scrumhalf and lively Sarel Pretorius moved to the right wing where was involved in one try and nearly set two others in motion.

Pretorius started an attack in which Lappies Labuschagne and Goosen were prominent but there was a forward pass. When Blue Bulls hands faltered Pretorius footed on twice and the Strauss did so a third time as he and JJ Engelbrecht headed for the line. The hooker beat the centre to the ball and scored. Form the kick-off after this try Pretorius did a darting run down the right wing and kicked infield. Ebersohn gathered and was tackled by Visser close to the line, losing the ball forward as he stretched out to score.

In the midst of this there was a sad red card. Prop Schalk van der Merwe tackled Visser after he had passed, i.e. late, then tipped him over the horizontal and the fell on top of Visser as he dropped to ground.

Man of the Match: Jürgen Visser was outstanding for the Blue Bulls and for the Cheetahs Raymond Rhule, Sarel Pretorius, Elgar Watts and, our man of the match on attack and defence, Robert Ebersohn.

The scorers:

For the Free State Cheetahs:
Ebersohn, Watts, Strauss
Cons: Watts 2
Pen: Watts

For the Blue Bulls:
Van der Merwe
Con: Pollard

Yellow card: Rudi Paige (Blue Bulls, 32 - professional foul, preventing a quick tap)
Red card: Schalk van der Merwe (Free State Cheetahs, 74 - foul play, spear tackle)


Free State Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Rayno Benjamin, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Elgar Watts, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Pieter Labuschagné, 6 Johannes Prinsloo, 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 4 Francois Uys, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 AJ le Roux, 17 Schalk van der Merwe, 18 Freddie Ngoza, 19 Teboho Mohoje, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Johan Goosen, 22 Willie du Plessis.

Blue Bulls: 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Rudi Paige, 8 Jacques Engelbrecht, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Jono Ross (captain), 5 David Bulbring, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Frik Kirsten, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Marcel van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 Grant Hattingh, 19 Jean Cook, 20 Lohan Jacobs, 21 Francois Venter, 22 Clayton Blommetjies.

Referee: Marius Jonker
Assistant referees: Quinton Immelman, Francois de Bruin
TMO: Gerrie Coetzee

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