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Super Rugby | Bloemfontein
17:10 (GMT) | 27-02-2015
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Joins us tomorrow for lopts more Super Rugby drama and also two Six nations games ... all LIVE right here on your favourite website!
  • 80
The Blues have one last shot at glory. The reclauim the restart and work their way into the Cheetahs 22. Iahaia West stands off and gets the ball - he goes for the drop-goal, but pushes it wide to the rigght. The hooter for FULL-TIME has sounded and the Cheetahs claim a valueble win. The Cheetahs remain unbeaten after two rounds, the Blues have lost three on the trot at the start of a season for the first time. There was very little between these teams it could so easily have gone to the Blues - that drop-goal attempt as not that far off.
  • 79
Joe Pietersen slots the PENALTY and the Cheetahs lead 25-24
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Huge blunder by the Blues - not engaging the Cheetahs maul and then 'stepping out' of the line-out - penalty Cheetahs
  • 77
Scrum penalty to the Cheetahs - this is rediculous now, the card can't be too far away now
  • 76
Forward pass hands the ball back to the Cheetahs, who will have a scrum feed just outside their 22
  • 75
Cheetahs can't control a line-out and then Cornal Hendrick knocks it into touch - Cheetahs their own worst enemies now
  • 73
Francois Uys penaised for offside, almost right in front
  • 73
Francois Uys penaised for offside, almost right in front. Ihaia West slots the PENALTY and the Blues lead 24-22
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Cheetahs forced to make many tackles now
  • 71
Joe Pietersen slots the PENALTY and the Cheetahs lead 22-21
  • 70
Another penalty to the Cheetahs, Blues 'diving' on the ball on the ground
  • 68
Scrum penalty to the Cheetahs - set pieces still a royal mess
  • 67
Another penalty to the Cheetahs, Blues 'diving' on the ball on the ground
  • 67
Again the Blues cough up the ball, this time just inside the Cheetahs 22
  • 66
Cheetahs penalised for incorrect entry at the tackle
  • 65
Ihaia West adds the CONVERSION as the Blues reclaim the lead
  • 64
TRY - Jerome Kaino gets the score that draws the teams level - the Cheetahs slipping off too many tackles now
  • 63
Sarel Pretorius overcooks his kick and the Blues have a line-out near halfway
  • 62
Scrum reset - not a surprise, can't remember a single scrum that was completed on first try
  • 61
Cheetahs defence win yet another turnover - the Blues held up in the tackle, turning it into a maul and winning the tiurnover jsut inside the Blues' half
  • 60
Ihaia West pushes it past the right upright - his first miss of the season
  • 59
Cowan makes a nuisance of himself and Braid wins his team a enalty as Prinsloo is isloated
  • 58
This scrum is taking a while to reset
  • 57
Scrum reset again - set pieces have been a royal mess all game
  • 56
Blues on the attack after the Cheetahs fialed to control the restart. The Blues return the favour, coughing up the ball etres from the line - another try butchered
  • 55
Joe Pietersen adds the aconversion aand the Cheetahs lead 19-14
  • 54
TRY - Sarel Pretorius goes over, after a move started by Cornal hendricks and Wilie le Roux with a ciounter inside their half - a chick and collect and Pretorius stepping past the last few defenders
  • 52
Blues penalised for collapsing the maul, but Pretiorius goes quickly and a shocking pass hands the ball back to the Blues deep inside ther half
  • 51
Piutau clears his lines to his 10m line
  • 50
Cheetahs defebnce again forces a turnover - the ball hacked upfield and into touch near the Blues line
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Joe Pietersen's touchfind is a shocker - with the wind he can't get out of his 22
  • 48
Luke Braid goes over the lin, but left the ball behind - a try butchered ater a great build-up by a Blues team getting into a good rhythm
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Willie le Roux penalised for being in front of the kicker and Cowan goes quickly
  • 45
Cowan grubbers ahead, but the Cheetahs win a penal;ty near their 22 as the Blues go off their feet at a tackle/ruck
  • 44
Now the Cheetahs' turn to use the winf to drive the Blues back into their half
  • 43
Faumuina penalised for collapsing the scrum
  • 42
Cheetahs defence again forces a trunover - Faumuina's hands letting him down on this occasin
  • 41
Joe Pietersen gets the second half underway. Penalty to the Blues as Danie Mienie is caught on the wrong side of a tackle

Half Time

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Ihaia West is over for what he thinks is his team's third try, but the TMO spots a forward pass and the teams head into the dressing room with the Blues leading 14-12 at HALF-TIME.
  • 38
Ihaia West adds the CONVERSION and the Blues lead 14-12
  • 37
TRY - Charlie Faumuina gets the 5-pointer, after some sublime interplay between forwards and backs, the prop himself showing asome great handling skills
  • 36
Blues looking to run it out from their half, after Willie le Roux kicked deep. Jerome Kaino finds the gaps, but the Cheetahs defence scrambles well.
  • 34
Joe Pietersen can't add the extras - 12-7
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TRY - Cornal hendricks gets his second 5-pointer of the match. The referee was playing advantage for an illegal collapse of the maukl and Joe Pieterse launched a cross-field kick. Some interpassing between Willie le Roux and his wing created the try
  • 32
Blues scrum under pressure and when they eventually get the ball out the Cheetahs win a penalty at the tackle
  • 31
Scrum reset again - not a single scrum has been completed at first attempt
  • 30
A stray pass by West allows Mohoje to hack the ball upfield. Rhule gets there, but can't control the ball and knocks it on inside the Blues 22
  • 28
Torsten van Jaarsveld's throw at the line-out not straight. Scrum reset again.
  • 27
Blues using the wind to pin the Cheetahs back insidetheir half
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Ihaia West adds the CONVERSION to level it up at 7-all
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TRY - Luke Braid gets the armchair ride from a swift moving maul
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Penalty to the Blues, as the Cheetahs illegally collapse the maul
  • 23
Jimmy Cowan gains good ground withy a grubber and forces Willie le Roux to hack it into touch inside his own 22
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Cheetahs looking to launch another counter from inside their half, after an ineffectiv Blues up-and-under. However, a forward pass ends the move near halfway
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Joe Pietersen adds the CONVERSION - 7-0
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TRY - Cornal hendricks gets his first try of the season, but that was classic Cheetahs - a turnover and good hands creating the space for Hendricvks on the wing - a move started inside their own half
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Blues keep the ball in hand for a while, but the Cheetahs'defence wins another turnover.
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Cheetahs winning the collissions at the moment, forcing the Blues to kick more than they want to. Visinia eventually drives the Cheetahs back into their 22
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Cheetahs spill the ball and Cowan hacks it deep, too deep. Cheetahs get a 22 restart
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Joe Pietersen, from about 40m out - into a strong wind - pushes it past the right upright
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Penalty to the Cheetahs after Van der Spuy puts in a monster hit. The Blues are arched 10m as they don't retreat when Pretorius takes a quick tap
  • 11
Free kick to the Cheetahs as the Blues start pushing too early
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Another scrum reset, after a collapse
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That maul was static for more than a minute and the referee kept calling 'use it' - eventually he is forced to blow a scrum for the Cheetahs a second maul goes nowhere
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Penalty to the Blues 5m out - Cheetahs went offside in desperation
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Blues now pinning the Cheetahjs in their own half
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Willie le Roux goes deep and Lolagi Visinia returns the favour
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Scrum reset and the referee has his first chat with the front rows
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Another off-the-ball scuffle - one would think the Blues have learnt their lesson after last week, yet there's already been two incidents and the game is hardly 3 mins old
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Ihaia West is fidning lots of space and a chip ahead bounces off a Cheetahs player, gifting the Blues an attacking line-out on the Cheetahs 22
  • 1
Straight away the Blues concede a penalty for foul play, charging a man still in the air. However, Joe Pietersen doesn't find touch.
  • 0
Ihaia West gets the game underway, as Jerome Kaine plays in his 100th Super Rugby game!
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The Blues have never lost three games on the trot at the start of a season; the Cheetahs looking for back-to-back wins for the first time in two years,
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The Cheetahs are confident they have both the attacking game and the kicking game to overcome a very dangerous Blues team. Having beatehn the Sharks in Week One, the Cheetahs had a bye last week.
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The Blues will rely heavily on the physicality of veteran All Black Jerome Kaino to end their losing streak at the start of the season. They have yet to win after two rounds.
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Let's hope the predicted thunderstorms stay away. It is a balmy evening, still in the nmid 20s. It it doesn't rain it will be great for attractive, running rugby
  • -30
Welcome to Bloemfontein, where we are gearong up for the encounter between the Cheetahs and Blues - the last Friday match in Super Rugby's Round Three!
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  • 15 Clayton Blommetjies
  • 14 William Small-Smith
  • 13 Francois Venter
  • 12 Niel Marais
  • 11 Sibahle Maxwane
  • 10 Johan Goosen
  • 9 Tian Meyer
  • 8 Uzair Cassiem
  • 7 Oupa Mohoje
  • 6 Paul Schoeman
  • 5 Reniel Hugo
  • 4 Carl Wegner
  • 3 Johannes Coetzee
  • 2 Torsten Van Jaarsveld
  • 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche
  • 23 AJ Coertzen
  • 22 Clinton Swart
  • 21 Zee Mkhabela
  • 20 Henco Venter
  • 19 Reynier Bernardo
  • 18 Tom Botha
  • 17 Charles Marais
  • 16 Jacques du Toit
  • 15 Stephen Perofeta
  • 14 Jordan Hyland
  • 13 Orbyn Leger
  • 12 TJ Faiane
  • 11 Rieko Ioane
  • 10 Bryn Gatland
  • 9 Jonathan Ruru
  • 8 Akira Ioane
  • 7 Kara Pryor
  • 6 Dalton Papalii
  • 5 Jimmy Tupou
  • 4 Patrick Tuipulotu
  • 3 Michael Tamoaieta
  • 2 James Parsons
  • 1 Pauliasi Manu
  • 24 Matt Duffie
  • 23 Tumua Manu
  • 22 Sam Nock
  • 21 Murphy Taramai
  • 20 Ben Neenee
  • 19 Sione Mafileo
  • 18 George Moala
  • 17 Ross Wright
  • 16 Matt Moulds
Mc article raymond rhule cheetahs trai

Preview: S15 Round Three, Part One

Wed, 25 Feb 2015 22:08

It may be early days yet, just two rounds played, but already some interesting trends are beginning to develop Super Rugby 2015.

It may be early days yet, just two rounds played, but already some interesting trends are beginning to develop in the last addition of a 15-team Super Rugby tournament.

Some teams have had more problems off the field than on it, while others are in supreme form.

The weekend's Round Three action kicks off in Dunedin on Friday - between two teams with plenty of off-field drama - the reds caught up in the Karmichael Hunt cocaine saga and the Highlanders battling illness and personal problems.

After that it is a quick hop across the Tasman Sea and then a flight across Australia to Perth - where the Western Force will look to bounce back from last week's disappointing loss when they face the unbeaten Hurricanes.

The Friday action is concluded with a trip across the Indian Ocean, where the Cheetahs - having had a bye in Round Two after a win in the opening week - host a Blues team with all kinds of disciplinary issues.

We look at Friday's matches!

Friday, February 27

Highlanders v Reds
(Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin - Kick-off: 19.35; 06.35 GMT; 16.35 AEST)

The Reds' off-field problems are far more serious than that of the Highlanders, but neither team would have wanted the build-up they experienced this week.

In Brisbane the fall-out of the Karmichael Hunt cocaine sage continued to cause shockwaves - with media briefings continued to be dominated about the code-hopper, despite Hunt having been put on ice.

The Highlanders, after their bitterly disappointing loss to the Crusaders last week, have been unable to get a proper training session in all week.

Top of the list of absentees is prop Kane Hames, who was slapped with a five-week ban for foul play.

Co-captain Nasi Manu picked up a bout of food poisoning, flyhalf Lima Sopoaga returned home to Wellington to be with his ill father and prop Ross Geldenhuys welcomed a second boy into his family on Tuesday.

While Manu has been short-listed to play, but Sopoaga has been ruled out - along with flank Shane Christie (hamstring) and midfield back Shaun Treeby (knee), who both missed last week's outing with injuries.

Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph said his team was well off the expected standards against the Crusaders and will have to raise the bar considerably.

Joseph was also brutally honest about Hames' ban.

''Clearly Kane was in the wrong,"he told the Otago Daily Times.

"He hit a player, and you can't do that in footy. Five weeks might sound severe but I guess that is the lesson we have to learn.

''We really need a player like that. He was one of our best players last year but when things like that happen, the whole team suffers.''

However, Joseph's problems pale in comparison with the media circus that followed Reds mentor Richard Graham this week.

Hunt has not trained with the team and won't play till his court appearance next month.

Graham said it was in "the best interests of Hunt's welfare" that he was not involved around the Reds squad until he appeared in court.

The reds coach said last weekend's win over the Force was a positive one, but they had shifted focus to the Highlanders almost immediately.

"Whilst last week's win was hugely important, this week is a new challenge and we have been heavily focused on ensuring we get the mindset right," Graham said.

"We are chasing small improvements in our performances every week and the only way you'll achieve that is by starting the process over at the beginning of each week.

"Leading into a game we have control over our attitude and preparation."

Recent results:
2014: Reds won 38-31, Brisbane
2013: Reds won 34-33, Dunedin
2012: Reds won 19-13, Brisbane
2010: Reds won 38-36, Brisbane
2009: Highlanders won 24-19, Ivercargill
2008: Reds won 22-16, Brisbane

Prediction: The Reds' current four-match winning streak against the Highlanders is their best run of form in the history of this fixture. The last six clashes between these sides have all been settled by seven or fewer points. The Reds have managed a better line-out success rate (97 percent) than any other side so far this season, landing 30 of 31 throws. They have also managed the most steals (six). The Highlanders are one of two sides (along with the Bulls) to see their opponents win all of their scrum feeds so far (20/20). The Reds sit bottom of the charts for all the main attacking attributes after two rounds; carries, metres, clean breaks, defenders beaten and offloads. Encounters between these two teams are never short of drama, which makes it tough to call. However, we feel the Highlanders may end their losing streak against the Reds and win by less than 10 points.


Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (co-captain), 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Jason Emery, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Marty Banks, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu (co-captain), 7 John Hardie, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Mark Reddish, 4 Tom Franklin, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Ash Dixon, 1 Brendon Edmonds.
Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Josh Hohneck, 18 Ma'afu Fia, 19 Joe Wheeler, 20 Dan Pryor, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Hayden Parker, 23 Kurt Baker.

Reds: 15 Lachie Turner, 14 Chris Kuridrani, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Anthony Fainga'a, 11 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 10 James O'Connor, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Marco Kotze, 4 Dave McDuling, 3 Sam Talakai, 2 Saia Fainga'a, 1 James Slipper (captain).
Replacments: 16 James Hanson, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Sef Faagase, 19 Tom Murday, 20 Curtis Browning, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Sam Johnson, 23 Campbell Magnay.

Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Kane McBride (New Zealand), Jamie Nutbrown (New Zealand)
TMO: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)

Western Force v Hurricanes
(nib Stadium, Perth - Kick-off: 19.00; 11.00 GMT; 00.00 Saturday, February 28 NZ Time)

The Hurricanes, fresh from a rare clean sweep on a South African tour, are determined continue their unbeaten start to the 2015 Super Rugby season when they play the Western Force in Perth on Friday.

The Western Force, after an impressive start with a win over the Waratahs in Sydney, flopped spectacularly against the reds in Brisbane last week.

They appear to have returned to their most erratic form. It is unsure how much the one-off-on-again build-up - the result of a tropical in Brisbane - impacted on the Perth players.

Commitment and composure under pressure  characterised the Hurricanes' two opening wins of the season - over the Lions and the Bulls.

They will look to replicate that in the final match of their road trip.

The Hurricanes could expect another torrid battle against the Force, who aren't flashy, but will tough it out for 80 minutes and attempt to wear down their opposition.

The Force are still without regular captain and flank Matt Hodgson, last year's leading Super Rugby tackler, who suffered a pre-season hamstring injury. In his absence, No.8 Ben McCalman is a superb close-quarter tradesman and his contest with his Hurricanes opposites should be a key feature of this match.

The battle for set-piece possession will likely go a long way to determining the outcome.

The Hurricanes' scrum went well against the traditionally strong Bulls pack last week, so they will be looking to continue to their early season ascendancy in this area.

The Hurricanes have their bye after this match, so another positive performance will put them in good stead ahead of their first home encounter against the Blues in Palmerston North on March 13.

Recent results:
2013: Hurricanes won 22-16, Wellington
2012: Hurricanes won 46-19, Perth
2011: Hurricanes won 34-28, Palmerston North
2010: Hurricanes won 47-22, Wellington
2009: Hurricanes won 28-27, Perth
2008: Hurricanes won 21-10, Wellington

Prediction: The 'Canes have won the last six matches between these teams who last met in 2013. In two of their last five wins over the Western Australia side, the Hurricanes have come from behind at half-time to triumph. The Force's line-out (69 percent) and scrum (59 percent) success rates are the lowest in the competition after two rounds. The Canes have won the most turnovers so far this year (24), as well as the most scrums (22). The Hurricanes are aiming for three consecutive away wins for the first time since May to June 2012. The Hurricanes are undoubtedly one of the form teams and it will take something special by the Western Force top end their run. The Hurricanes to win by 10 points or more.


Western Force: 15 Luke Burton, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Solomoni Rasolea, 11 Marcel Brache, 10 Zack Holmes, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Brynard Stander, 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Steve Mafi, 4 Sam Wykes (captain), 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pekahou Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Oliver Hoskins, 19 Rory Walton, 20 Kane Koteka, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Sias Ebersohn, 23 Mitchell Scott.

Hurricanes: 15 James Marshall, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Chris Smiley, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Brad Shields, 6 Ardie Savea, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Blade Thomson, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Dane Coles (captain), 1 Reggie Goodes.
Replacements: 16 Brayden Mitchell, 17 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 18 Chris Eves, 19 Mark Abbott, 20 Callum Gibbins, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Matt Proctor, 23 Nehe lner-Skudder.

Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Graham Cooper (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)

Cheetahs v Blues
(Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein - Kick-off: 19.10; 18.10 GMT; 06.10 NZ Time Saturday, February 28)

The two teams will meet in Bloemfontein with vastly contrasting fortunes - the Cheetahs with a win and a bye, the Blues on the back of consecutive defeats.

Cheetahs coach Naka Drotské felt his team made the perfect start and must kick on from here.

"We have gained a lot of confidence from the game against the Sharks," Drotské told a media briefing.

"We haven't started well in the competition in the past, but we have done so this year," said Drotské.

"We not only beat them [the Sharks] in Durban, but got five points in doing so.

"There was no need to really ring the changes and the side stays as is, mostly because we want to reward the players for their efforts at Kings Park."

Drotské said he was satisfied with all aspects of his side's game, and hoped to produce a similar performance against the Blues.

"We did a lot of things very well against the Sharks. We scrummed really well and we defended like our lives depended on it.

"We also did well on the attack and want to take that momentum forward against a side that is going to be very direct and physical in their approach to the game.

"We expect a huge battle and we have prepared as such."

The Blues, in contrast, are faced with an almost farcical inability to win away from home.

Under coach John Kirwan the Blues won just once on the road last year - against in Perth against the Force. And in 2013 they also had just one away victory.

They need a win on Friday to lift the dark pall of gloom.

After this week the Blues have just one home game, against the Lions, before another three-match road-trip - when they face the Hurricanes, Waratahs and Chiefs.

No doubt they could be in a deep mire if they head home to Auckland with three consecutive defeats at the start of the season and knowing they have another tough away stretch to follow.

The pressure on Kirwan, in the last year of his contract, will increase significantly if they don't come up with a winning streak soon.

That can will only be achieved if they discard the brainless, overly physical approach that coast them so dearly against the Stormers last week - a red card to a key player and deserved defeat.

Recent results:
2014: Blues won 40-30, Auckland
2013: Cheetahs won 34-13, Bloemfontein
2011: Blues won 29-22, Auckland
2010: Cheetahs won 36-32, Bloemfontein
2009: Blues won 46-12, North Harbour
2008: Blues won 50-26, Bloemfontein

Prediction: The last six games between these sides have seen an average of 62 combined points scored. The last five games between these teams have been won by the home side. The Blues have never lost their first three games of a Super Rugby season. The Blues are the only side to land all of their attempts at goal so far this season. They have also landed the joint-most penalty shots (nine). The Cheetahs are aiming for consecutive victories for the first time since May 2013. The Cheetahs shed a lot of experience and a good serving of Springbok caps in the off-season and it seems those departures did more good than harm. Only time will tell, but we feel they will produce an entertaining game and win by 10 points or more.


Cheetahs: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Michael van der Spuy, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Joe Petersen, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Jean Cook, 5 Francois Uys (captain), 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Danie Mienie.
Replacements: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 Burrie Uys, 18 Nicolaas van Dyk, 19 Tienie Burger, 20 Johannes Prinsloo, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Willie du Plessis, 23 Johann Sadie.

Blues: 15 Lolagi Visinia, 14 Melani Nanai, 13 Charles Piutau, 12 Hamish Northcott, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Brendon O'Connor, 6 Luke Braid, 5 Patrick Tuipulotu, 4 Josh Bekhuis, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Steven Luatua, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Simon Hickey, 23 Francis Saili.

Referee: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia)
Assistant referees: Andrew Lees (Australia), Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)

Compiled by Jan de Koning

Statistical information provided by Opta Sports

Mc article jerome kaino blues v cheeta

Cheetahs edge Bloem thriller

Fri, 27 Feb 2015 19:00

MATCH REPORT: The Cheetahs hung on desperately for a thrilling one-point (25-24) Super Rugby win over the Blues on Friday.

The Cheetahs hung on desperately for a thrilling one-point (25-24) Super Rugby win over the Blues in Bloemfontein on Friday.

As long as living memory, wise old men have said it, nodding sagely, and all around would nod agreement.

They applied it to many things but above all to rugby football.

"Possession is nine-tenths of the law," they would say. And then you watched this evening's match in Bloemfontein.

I suppose you could say that the Blues' problem was that they had only seven-tenths of the law, not nine. Whatever it was they had luxurious ball and territory possession -and they lost by one point.

That is remarkable for such a skilled and creative side, one that you would expect to win on 30 percent of the ball, which is what the Cheetahs had.

That meant that the Cheetahs had to tackle far more often, and by and large they did. They had to make the most of scraps, which by an large they did, so that each side ended having scored three tries.

The Cheetahs were not perfect. They looked brittle on defence at times while the Blues were forceful in the tackle and in contesting tackled ball. The Cheetahs were less secure at the line-out than the Blues were and the Blues had 16 line-outs to their 10 - much more possession there, but the Cheetahs had lots of brave men  to contain their more physical opponents. The home side deserve loud plaudits.

It was a fascinating game, as two statistically uneven sides met and the match was decided with just a minute to go. It was thrilling.

Jerome Kaino led his side out, as well he might - a noble warrior playing his 100th match for the Blues and playing with great nobility.

The Blues wore white the Cheetahs had a splash of orange, for once the Free State was the Orange Free State. It was the Blues' third match of the 2015 Super Rugby season, the Cheetahs' second. the Blues had two defeats behind them, the Cheetahs a startling win over the Sharks in Durban.

Ihaia West kicked off for the Blues and they settled down to a gorge of possession and lots of attacking. They were well on top and Kaino seemed to be about to score when Francois Venter cut him down. The Cheetahs repelled a maul and won a turnover as the Blues enjoyed wind assistance.. But the Cheetahs got into their territory and when the Blues were moved on 10 metres at a penalty Joe Pietersen missed a  kick from in front but he made up for it later in the match with the best kick of the match.

Oupa Mohoje won a Blues throw into a line-out on the left  and the Cheetahs attacked. They went wide right where some magic handling by Willie le Roux sent a perfect pass to Cornal Hendricks  who threw a convincing dummy and cut inside to go through untouched to score. 7-0 after 19 minutes.

The lead did not last long. The Cheetahs were penalised for collapsing the maul. The Blues kicked out and mauled again. The Cheetahs were earnest in their attempts to repel the invader but the Blues broke off to the left and Luke Braid scored a try that West converted. 7-all after 24 minutes.

The Blues attacked again but when they dropped the ball Mohoje kicked it far downfield and Raymond Rhule had just to gather the ball to score but knocked on in his haste.

A penalty gave the Cheetahs a five-metre line-out. They mauled and the referee played advantage in their favour. Then came Pietersen's moment of genius. He kicked a perfect diagonal kick from far left to far right where Willie le Roux rose up and patted the ball down to  Hendricks as desperate defenders gathered. Hendricks gave to Venter. Venter gave to Le Roux who was just in from touch. Le Roux gave a perfect pass inside to Hendricks who forced his way past Brendan O'Connor and Tevita Li to score. 12-7 to the Cheetahs after 32 minutes.

The Blues looked to be about to score when Kaino broke strongly and gave to strong Melani Nanai on the right wing but Rhule back-tackled him brilliantly. But the Blues were on the attack and massive Patrick Tuipulotu handed off a high attempt at a tackle by Mohoje and thundered down the field before passive to bearded Charlie Faumuina who took the pass one-handed to go over to score. 14-12 to the Blues after 37 minutes.

They nearly got another when West took a short pass from Faumuina and raced 45 metres downfield to go over, but the referee consulted the TMO who confirmed that Faumuina's pass was forward.

Half-time came with the score 14-12 for the Aucklanders.

The Blues started the second half on the attack, using the simplest of skills - running straight and passing to the player next to you. They should have scored but Luke Braid lost the ball forward right at the line. Instead it was the Cheetahs who scored first in the half.

West kicked long down into the Cheetahs' half where Le Roux came running back. He chipped and beat Jimmy Cowan to the bouncing ball, knocking it to Sarel Pretorius who sped 40 metres on a swerving run, beating four bamboozled Blues players to score. 19-14 to the Cheetahs.

Astonishingly West missed a penalty kick at goal, his only miss in three matches.

The Blues got the lead back when replacement scrumhalf Jamison Gibson-Park darted through on a sharp break on the left. After many passes the Blues were on the right where Lolagi Visinia gave a pass to centurion Kaino who scored in the corner. West converted. 21-19 after 63 minutes.

Five minutes later the Cheetahs had the lead back when huge Ofa Tu'ungafasi was penalised at a collapsed maul and Pietersen goaled. 22-21 to the Cheetahs.

Then it was the Blues' turn. Francois Uys was penalised for being offside and West goaled. 24-22 with 7 minutes to play. The tension was at breaking point.

The Cheetahs lost a line-out and the Blues were back on the attack but a penalty gave the Cheetahs a line-out in Blues' territory. The Blues, for the second time in the match, stood off as the Cheetahs invited them to maul but this time the Cheetahs kept the ball with the catcher Mohoje at the front of the maul-like formation and the Blues were penalised for backing away from the line-out.

Pietersen goaled. 25-24 with just under a minute to play.

The Blues kicked a shallow kick-off and won the ball for Gibson-Park but the Cheetahs held put for a tense victory as West went for a drop goal and missed.

Man of the Match: Patrick Tuipulotu was immense and Jerome Kaino clearly a man of great stature. On the Cheetahs' side there was the intensity of Coenie Oosthuizen around the field and his strength in the scrums that helped the Cheetahs to three penalties  at scrum time. But our Man of the Match acknowledges the brilliance of Willie le Roux and the variety  of his skilful contribution. He had a creative hand in each of his side's tries.

The scorers:

For the Cheetahs:
Hendricks 2, Pretorius
Cons: Pietersen 2
Pens: Pietersen 2

For the Blues:
Braid, Faumuina, Kaino
Cons: West 3
Pen: West


Cheetahs: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Michael van der Spuy, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Joe Petersen, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Jean Cook, 5 Francois Uys (captain), 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Danie Mienie.
Replacements: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 Burrie Uys, 18 Nicolaas van Dyk, 19 Tienie Burger, 20 Johannes Prinsloo, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Willie du Plessis, 23 Johann Sadie.

Blues: 15 Lolagi Visinia, 14 Melani Nanai, 13 Charles Piutau, 12 Hamish Northcott, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Brendon O'Connor, 6 Luke Braid, 5 Patrick Tuipulotu, 4 Josh Bekhuis, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Sam Pratley, 19 Steven Luatua, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Simon Hickey, 23 Francis Saili.

Referee: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia)
Assistant referees: Andrew Lees (Australia), Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)

VENUE Bloemfontein
REFEREE Rohan Hoffmann (Australia)