Dire game in dire conditions
The Cheetahs beat the Bulls for the first time in Super Rugby history, a 15-9 win in a dire game in Bloemfontein on Friday.
It was the first time in 12 attempts, going back to 2006, that the men from Bloemfontein got the better of the Bulls.
With rain starting to bucket down just before kick-off and carrying on during the game, it made handling a lot more difficult than either team would have wanted.
The dire conditions resulted in a lot of kicking and an error-riddled stop-start affair.
This filtered through to the set pieces.
The Cheetahs scrum came under pressure in the first half - with a a number of free kicks for early shoving, a delayed feed and not putting in straight causing problems. Then there was also a penalty after an incorrect bind.
After the break the Bulls started to fall foul of the referee's interpretations at the scrums - mostly for 'over-extending'.
However, it was on the ground where the Cheetahs dominated most, getting there in numbers and blowing the Bulls away or winning crucial turnovers through some great steals by players like Johannes Prinsloo and Coenie Oosthuizen.
Another problem for the visitors was their kicking game - with Louis Fouché's restarts often too far, sometimes directly into touch, and his kicking out of hand aimless and badly misdirected. It didn't improve much when Handré Pollard came on in the second half.
In contrast the Cheetahs kickers - Johan Goosen and Willie le Roux, managed to get their team out of trouble with ease.
Goosen got the scoreboard ticking with a sweetly-struck drop-goal from almost 50 metres out barely a minute into the game. The he added a penalty a few minutes later and the Cheetahs were well on their way.
Louis Fouche failed in his first attempt at goal, from 40 metres out right in front, and then landed his second from much closer range.
Goosen quickly made it a six-point game again when the Bulls went offside on their 22, and then took it to 12-3 just short of the half-hour mark after another offside penalty against the visitors.
Right on half-time Fouché had a chance to narrow the gap from 50-odd metres out, but his radar was again well off target - leaving the Cheetahs to take a 12-3 lead into the break.
Handré Pollard, who came on for Fouché early in the second half, also missed his first penalty shot at goal, but slotted his second as the Bulls looked to work their way back into the game.
With 20 minutes remaining Goosen, who had moments early narrowly failed with a kick of well over 50 metres, made it a nine-point game with his fourth penalty - 15-6.
With lees than two minutes remaining and the game Pollard slotted a penalty to get the Bulls a consolation losing bonus point.
Man of the match: Jurgen Visser dealt with the huge array of high bombs with ease in some very testing conditions, while Akona Ndungane did well with his chasing of the numerous bombs. Johannes Prinsloo won some crucial turnovers at the breakdown, while Philip van der Walt and Pieter Labuschagne were monsters on defence. Johan Goosen's kicking out of hand kept the Bulls on the backfoot. However, our award goes to Cheetahs fullback Willie le Roux, who was not just on song with his kicking , but actually attempted to play some rugby and it was not surprising he came in for special praise from coach Naka Drotské.
For the Cheetahs:
Pens: Goosen 4
For the Bulls:
Pens: Fouché, Pollard 2
Cheetahs: 15 Willem le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Johannes Prinsloo, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Coenraad Oosthuizen, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Nicolaas van Dyk, 19 Rynhardt Landman, 20 Jean Cook, 21 Sarel Pretorius, 22 Elgar Watts, 23 Hennie Daniller.
Bulls: 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Louis Fouché, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Jacques Engelbrecht, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Jono Ross, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Flip van der Merwe (captain), 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Victor Matfield, 20 Wiaan Liebenberg, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Ulrich Beyers.
Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa), Francois de Bruin (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)