Lee hat-trick hands 13-man Cheetahs the win
Lee hat-trick hands 13-man Cheetahs the winSHARE
However, for the second week in succession, their discipline let them down, with the Bloemfontein outfit reduced to 13 men for the last 10 minutes in a scrappy affair in Port Elizabeth.
In fact, the Cheetahs received three yellow cards for a combination of offences and that is probably the most worrying aspect of their game.
The bonus-point win means the Cheetahs keep up the pressure on Munster in Conference A.
In a fast-paced first half, it was the Cheetahs who were first to score through fullback Clayton Blommetjies, but the Kings responded immediately with Yaw Penxe's searing try.
Lee and Shaun Venter then touched down before the break for the away side, and the bonus point was secured just after half-time when Lee grabbed his second.
Eital Bredenkamp got the Kings back in it and a penalty try then threatened a comeback, but Lee incredibly struck for the third time, with the Cheetahs down to 13 men, and Jacques Du Toit added a sixth to put the result beyond doubt.
The game at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium started at frenetic pace, with Makazole Mapimpi displaying his electric speed inside five minutes, eventually leading to Blommetjies' try – the fullback throwing a lovely dummy to get himself over.
But the Kings had their own tricky fullback and two minutes later Penxe stormed over the tryline, coming on to the ball at pace and dummying his way through a gap in the opposition defence.
Minutes later Kings prop Pieter Scholtz was penalised for not rolling away and Fred Zeilinga put the visitors 10-7 up with a straightforward kick.
After 20 minutes the Cheetahs scored their second try, with Lee going over from close range and Zeilinga again adding the extras.
The visitors dominated at the breakdown and kept the Kings pinned back with some excellent tactical kicking, including, surprisingly, a monster clearance from second-row Reniel Hugo.
The Cheetahs' third try came from the hands of scrumhalf Venter, with the No.9 barging through three tackles to touch down just next to the posts on minute 32.
The home side rallied just before the break with a succession of drives almost gaining a crucial try before the interval, but after half-time Lee finished off an interception try to secure the bonus point for the Cheetahs.
The Kings were in no mood to submit though and roared back 10 minutes later when a period of intense pressure saw back-row Bredenkamp touch the ball down following Schalk Ferreira's drive.
As the hosts piled on the pressure, Cheetahs' Charles Marais saw yellow whilst attempting to stop a drive, with the Kings registering their third try soon after with a penalty try
Cheetahs replacement Junior Pokomela also saw yellow in the act of conceding the score, leaving his side with 13 men for the final 10 minutes of the game.
But it mattered not, with the Conference A side marching downfield for Lee to complete his hat-trick from short range before Du Toit completed the scoring with the Cheetahs' sixth try.
For the Southern Kings:
Tries: Penxe, Bredenkamp, penalty try
Cons: Zono 2, penalty try does not require a conversion
For the Cheetahs:
Tries: Blommetjies, Lee 3, Venter, Du Toit
Cons: Zeilinga 5
Yellow cards: Justin Basson (Cheetahs, 52 – repeated infringements, killing the ball at the tackle), Charles Marais (Cheetahs, 70 – repeated infringements, in at the side of a maul), Junior Pokomela (Cheetahs, 71 – cynical foul, side entry at the maul)
Southern Kings: 15 Yaw Penxe, 14 Michael Makase, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Martin du Toit, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Oliver Zono, 9 Rowan Gouws, 8 Ruaan Lerm, 7 Tienie Burger, 6 Eital Bredenkamp, 5 Bobby de Wee, 4 Stephan Greeff, 3 Pieter Scholtz, 2 Stephan Coetzee, 1 Schalk Ferreira (captain).
Replacements: 16 Michael Willemse, 17 Johan Smith, 18 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 19 Lindokuhle Welemu, 20 Freddy Ngoza, 21 Rudi van Rooyen, 22 Ntabeni Dukisa, 23 Harlon Klaasen.
Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Craig Barry, 13 Nico Lee, 12 Niel Marais, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Justin Basson, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld (captain), 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche.
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Johannes Coetzee, 19 Rynier Bernardo, 20 Junior Pokomela, 21 Henco Venter, 22 Mthokozisi Mkhabela, 23 Adriaan Coertzen.
Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Cwengile Jadezweni, AJ Jacobs (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)