Cheetahs off to a flying start
CURRIE CUP REPORT: The Free State Cheetahs got the defence of their title off to the perfect start, a 47-12 bonus-point win over the Sharks in Bloemfontein on Friday.
The Cheetahs - who started slowly, but picked up pace in the second half - dominated the scrums, where they won a number of penalties.
In contrast their line-outs were a mess.
Their running game spluttered at times, with only the occasional moment of brilliance.
The scrums and their powerful mauls are where the Cheetahs laid the foundation for their victory.
For the Sharks, their lack of experience showed up - as 11 players in their matchday squad made their Currie Cup debut.
Cheetahs flyhalf Niel Marais opened the scoring with a penalty.
Springbok flank Uzair Cassiem crashed over for the game's opening try in the 12th minute and Marais made it 10-0 with the conversion.
The Sharks managed to get their first try towards the end of the first quarter, with centre Sibusiso Sithole finishing off a classy move and flyhalf Benhard Janse van Rensburg adding the conversion.
Cheetahs captain Francois Venter stretched his team's lead on the half-hour mark.
The Cheetahs were then reduced to 14 men when Cassiem was yellow-carded in the 33rd minute for a cynical foul.
Despite being a man down the Cheetahs held onto their 17-7 lead till half-time.
Marais added two penalties in the 48th and 53rd minutes.
Replacement hooker Reinach Venter then went over for his first Currie Cup try, to stretch the Cheetahs' lead to 28-7.
Springbok wing Raymond Rhule put the result beyond doubt when he finished off another classy move yo also secure the bonus point.
In the final 10 minutes William Small-Smith and Mthokozisi Mkhabela scored tries - with a consolation effort by Bandisa Ndlovu sandwiched in between.
Man of the match: Jacques Vermeulen was, by some distance, the Sharks' most productive player. Rosco Specman tried to turn on the magic, but the field was littered with players and he did not have the space he is accustomed to. Henco Venter and Uzair Cassiem had their moments. Raymond Rhule did not have many opportunities on attack, but worked hard on defence and chased hard. Our award goes to Cheetahs fullback Clayton Blommetjies, who used his boot to great effect to get the Cheetahs out if trouble on numerous occasions and created some excitement with ball in hand.
For the Free State Cheetahs:
Tries: Cassiem, F Venter, R Venter, Rhule, Small-Smith, Mkhabela
Cons: Marais 3, Blommetjies
Pens: Marais 3
For the Sharks:
Tries: Sithole, Ndlovu
Con: Janse van Rensburg
Yellow card: Uzair Cassiem (Cheetahs, 34 - cynical foul, killing the ball at the breakdown)
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Rosco Specman, 13 Francois Venter, 12 William Small-Smith, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Niel Marais, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Henco Venter, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Neil Jordaan, 5 Daniel Hugo, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Charles Marais.
Replacements: 16 Retshegofaditswe Nche, 17 Reinach Venter, 18 Rynier Bernado, 19 Chris Dry, 20 Mthokozisi Mkhabela, 21 JW Jonker, 22 Cecil Afrika.
Sharks: 15 Courtney Winnaar, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Sibusiso Sithole, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Illunga Mukendi, 10 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 9 Rowan Gouws, 8 Keegan Daniel (captain), 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Khaya Majola, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Wian Vosloo, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Kieron van Vuuren, 1 Mzamo Majola.
Replacements: 16 Andrew du Plessis, 17 Thierry Kounga, 18 Tyler Paul, 19 Bandisa Ndlovu, 20 Cameron Wright, 21 Brandan Bailing, 22 Inny-Christian Radebe.
Referee: Jadezweni Cwengile
Assistant referees: Jaco Pretorius, Jaco Kotze.
TMO: JJ Wagner