Clinical Chiefs beat Cheetahs
SUPER RUGBY REPORT: A clinical second-half performance by the Chiefs ensured them a 41-27 win against a resilient Cheetahs side in Bloemfontein.
The hosts kicked the game off in magnificent form, which left the visitors in stunned. The Cheetahs scored three tries - courtesy of Raymond Rhule, Torsten Van Jaarsveld, Francois Venter - to take a 24-0 after 22 minutes of play.
Chiefs gradually worked themselves in the match and responded with a six-try scoring spree to claim a bonus-point Round eight victory at Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein.
Even a second-half yellow card for prop Kane Hames did not upset the visitors, who outscored the hosts by eight points to three while he was in the bin.
Winning enabled two-time Super Rugby champions Chiefs to climb one place to second in the New Zealand conference, two points behind Crusaders.
Cheetahs remained second in the Africa One conference, 17 points adrift of Stormers, who host Lions in a South African derby later on Saturday.
"The Cheetahs played some fantastic rugby in the early stages," said SuperSport analyst and former South Africa coach Nick Mallett.
"But a telling statistic is that in the final 58 minutes, the Chiefs scored 41 points and the Cheetahs just three.
"Chiefs became better and better as the game progressed and the offensive kicking of fly-half Aaron Cruden into the corners was superb."
Defeat completed a miserable week for the Cheetahs, who learnt that they are likely to be axed from the competition next season when it is reduced from 18 teams to 15.
Two of the sides to be ditched will come from the six South African franchises with the Cheetahs and the Port Elizabeth-based Southern Kings expected to get the chop.
The other casualties of the cull will be Australian --either the Melbourne Rebels or the Perth-based Western Force.
Flyhalf Niel Marais kicked a penalty and converted tries by wing Rhule, hooker Van Jaarsveld and centre Francois Venter in an early Cheetahs purple patch.
But the big lead was trimmed to 24-14 by half-time as wing Toni Pulu scored two tries which Cruden converted.
Marais slotted another penalty on 50 minutes to stretch the lead, but those were the final points scored by the South Africans as the Chiefs took total control.
Cruden kicked a penalty and two conversions and scrum-half Tawera Kerr-Barlow, wingers James Lowe and substitute Shaun Stevenson, and replacement hooker Hika Elliot sored tries.
Man of the Match: Like always we expected Toni Pulu, James Lowe and Damian McKenzi to run much of the proceedings and indeed they did. Despite the dire second-half performance of the Cheetahs, our award for man of the match goes to wing Raymond Rhule, who worked hard out wide and kept McKenzi really busy in defence.
Tries: Rhule, Van Jaarsveld, Venter
Cons: Marais 3
Pens: Marais 2
Tries: Pulu 2, Kerr-Barlow, Stevenson, Lowe, Elliot
Cons: Cruden 4
Yellow Card: Kane Hames (Chiefs, 44 - collapsing the maul)
Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter (captain), 12 Nico Lee, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Niel Marais, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Henco Venter, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Carl Wegner, 4 Armandt Koster, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche.
Replacements: 16 Elandré Huggett, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Francois Uys, 20 Niell Jordaan, 21 Junior Pokomela, 22 Tian Meyer, 23 Fred Zeilinga.
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Sam McNicol, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden (co-captain), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane (co-captain), 6 Mitchell Brown, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Taleni Seu, 3 Atu Moli, 2 Brayden Mitchell, 1 Kane Hames.
Replacements: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Siegfried Fisi'ihoi, 18 Sosefo Kautai, 19 Dominic Bird, 20 Liam Messam, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Alex Nankivell, 23 Shaun Stevenson.
Referee: Jaco van Heerden (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa), Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)