Mapimpi hat-trick steals it for Cheetahs
CURRIE CUP MATCH REPORT: Flying wing Makazole Mapimpi scored a try five minutes into extra time to steal a one-point (41-40) win for the Free State Cheetahs over the Blue Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday.
The try - the sixth for the Cheetahs - not only secured the win, but also completed a hat-trick for Mapimpi in an 11-try thriller.
And the bonus-point win allowed the Cheetahs to reclaim first place on the standings.
There was also four yellow cards - the fourth going to Bulls scrumhalf Piet van Zyl, leaving his team a man short in those crucial final five minutes.
It was a game that had it all - excitement, great tries, drama and controversy.
For large parts of the match the Bulls defended soundly and it appeared that stoic defence would win it for them in those dying minutes.
However, the Cheetahs somehow worked space for Mapimpi down the left flank to secure the winner.
Bulls flyhalf Tony Jantjies opened the scoring with a penalty, while Cheetahs counterpart Ryno Eksteen levelled the scores after having missed with his first shot at goal.
Warrick Gelant put Dries Swanepoel away for the first try, as the Bulls regained the lead - Jantjies having his conversion attempt charged down - one of two shots charged down in the game.
The Cheetahs responded almost immediately when they forced a turnover at the breakdown and Mapimpi raced away to score a converted try - the visitors claiming the lead for the first time in the match.
Piet van Zyl took a quick penalty tap and got to within six metres of the Free State tryline - with some quick recycling allowing Jantjies to slip through a gap and over for a seven-pointer.
Jamba Ulengo was yellow-carded for a cynical ruck infringement.
Free State opted to scrum and Jasper Wiese went over for a converted try.
Two Jantjies penalties gave the Bulls a 21-17 lead at the half-time break.
However, the Bulls played the first 10 minutes of the second half with 14 men - after Shaun Adendorff was yellow-carded on the stroke of half-time for a deliberate knockdown from an offside position.
The Cheetahs made their numerical advantage count with two converted tries early in the second half.
First, Mapimpi chased down Mthokozisi Mkhabela's grubber into the corner and then Francois Venter ran a good line off Mkhabela's pass to dot down under the posts.
But the Bulls hit back with two tries from Ulengo and Gelant, the second of which came after Adendorff had returned to the field, to edge ahead 33-31 after 54 minutes.
The Cheetahs then suffered another blow when Paul Schoeman was sin-binned for not rolling away at a ruck.
The Bulls didn't score any points while was off, though, with Jantjies missing a penalty, and only a brilliant cover tackle from Ulengo prevented Mapimpi from getting his hat-trick for the 14-man Cheetahs.
The hosts did extend their lead to 40-31 with 10 minutes to go, when the Cheetahs tried to run the ball out from behind their tryline and Ulengo ripped the ball off Clayton Blommetjies to score.
The Cheetahs responded with their fifth try, through Petersen, although Blommetjies' conversion went wide.
The fullback then kicked a penalty directly into touch with five minutes to go.
But the Cheetahs finished the match on the attack, and were rewarded with Mapimpi's match-winning score in the left-hand corner.
Man of the match: Warwick Gelant, Burger Odendaal, Piet can Zyl, Pierre Schoeman and Jamba Ulengo all produced outstanding performances for the Blue Bulls. Francois Venter, Rynier Bernardo and Makazole Mapimpi (with his hat-trick) were among a host of Cheetahs players on our short-list. However, the biggest impact came from Cheetahs centre Williams Small-Smith and he edged hat-trick hero Mapimpi to our award.
For the Blue Bulls:
Tries: Swanepoel, Jantjies, Ulengo 2, Gelant
Cons: Jantjies 2, Stander
Pens: Jantjies 3
For the Free State Cheetahs:
Tries: Mapimpi 3, Wiese, Venter, Petersen
Cons: Eksteen 4
Yellow cards: Jamba Ulengo (Blue Bulls, 30 - repeated offences, offside), Shaun Adendorff (Blue Bulls, 40 - cynical foul, slapping the ball down deliberately), Paul Schoeman (Free State Cheetahs, 56 - repeated infringements, bot rolling away at tackle), Piet can Zyl (Blue Bulls, 80 - cynical foul, deliberate knock-on)
Blue Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Kefentse Mahlo, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Burger Odendaal (captain), 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tony Jantjies, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Nicholas de Jager, 7 Abongile Nonkontwana, 6 Shaun Adendorff, 5 Ruben van Heerden, 4 Irne Herbst, 3 Conraad van Vuuren, 2 Jan-Henning Campher, 1 Pierre Schoeman,
Replacements: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 18 Jano Venter, 19 Clyde Davids, 20 Andre Warner, 21 Joshua Stander, 22 John Jackson.
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter (captain), 12 William Small-Smith, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Ryno Eksteen, 9 Zee Mkhabela, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Gerhard Olivier, 5 Rynier Bernardo, 4 Armand Koster, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Jacques du Toit, 1 Retshegofaditswe Niche.
Replacements: 16 Erich de Jager, 17 Joseph Dweba, 18 Dennis Visser, 19 Paul Schoeman, 20 Juan-Philip Smith, 21 Ali Mgijima, 22 Rosko Specman.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant referees: Paul Mente, Monray Gillbert
TMO: Lesego Legoete