Cheetahs run riot in Bloemfontein
This follows their 55-17 rout of a hapless Golden Lions in their semifinal in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The Cheetahs totally outclassed an error-riddled Lions team, their dominance much bigger than the six-tries-to-three suggests.
The injury of Springbok prop Julian Redelinghuys, who damaged his neck in a tackle on Torsten van Jaarsveld, will be of big concern – to both the Lions and Bok team management.
The Lions struggled with the Cheetahs' rushing defensive lines, while mistakes – especially with ball in hand – also proved very costly.
Passes didn't go to hand, or were put down cold, tackles were missed and the Lions were outclassed in the collision and breakdown areas.
The scrums were a massive contest, the one area of the game where the Lions had an advantage in the first half. However, even that changed after the break.
The Cheetahs' defence is what caused the Lions the most trouble – forcing them to take unwanted risks and resulting in those costly errors.
Their attack also put the Lions' ragged defensive lines under pressure and resulted in a number of line-breaks.
In short, they were more clinical and more energetic than a Lions team that looked a pale shadow of the side that won the coveted trophy last year.
The Cheetahs enjoyed most of the early territorial advantage and as the pressure mounted the Lions' defensive Lions coughed up a couple of penalties – which Niel Marais slotted for a 6-0 lead.
After that dominant opening 10 minutes, the Lions did get some possession, but the home team's defence held out.
And in the 14th minute, the Cheetahs worked a great move down the right-hand touchline, with Sergeal Petersen's pace taking him clear of the cover for the opening try. Marais' conversion made it 13-0.
Two more Marais penalties – and a yellow card to Lions flank Cyle Brink for repeatedly going offside – saw the Cheetahs take a 19-0 lead on the half-hour mark.
The Cheetahs took an unassailable 26-0 lead when the Lions lost the ball in the tackle inside the Cheetahs' 22-metre area. Reniel Hugo hacked the ball ahead and again it was Petersen's pace that took him away from most of the Lions' cover defence. It required the intervention of the TMO, but the try was confirmed.
Marais' conversion – who had kicked six from six at that stage – made it 26-0, a scoreline that stood till the half-time break, despite a late rally by the Lions.
The Cheetahs started the second half as they finished the first, on the front foot and dominant.
From a tackle/ruck situation, No.8 Niell Jordaan went on the blind side, down the right-hand touchline and outsprinted the cover for the third try. The touchline conversion made it 33-0 after just 42 minutes.
The Lions, sending on Springbok Francois de Klerk for an injured Ross Cronje, suddenly found some rhythm. And the pressure resulted in Ryno Benjamin being sin-binned for repeatedly going offside.
The Lions set up a line-out and quick hands found Sylvian Mahuza on the left wing. The conversion attempt by Jaco van der Walt was wide of the mark – 33-5 after 50 minutes.
Marais kicked a long-range penalty three minutes later, as the Cheetahs remained well ahead on the scoreboard, before Paul Schoeman was yellow-carded for a dangerous tackle.
The Lions managed a length-of-the-field try by NMahiuza, his second of the match – but it mattered little.
It was Benjamin, back from his stint in the sin bin, that scored next – a classic score through interplay after a turnover. That was followed by a long-range score from Clayton Blommetjies – Fred Zeilinga converting both to take the Cheetahs to their half-ton, 50-10.
Petersen put the seal on a great game with his third try.
There was enough time for the Lions to get a late consolation score, by replacement Ruaan Lerm.
However, the Cheetahs had secured an emphatic 55-17 win.
Man of the match: You can pick any of the players in the starting XV – from fullback Clayton Blommetjies to prop Retshegofaditswe Nche – all deserved of an award. However, we have opted for Cheetahs wing Sergeal Petersen, not only for his hat-trick of tries, but the chaos he caused in general play with his stepping and running lines.
Moment of the match: There were nine great tries – even three from the Lions. Throw in any number of the massive hits on defence. It was an awesome game to watch – a joy to behold. However, we feel the first Sergeal Petersen try in the 14th-minute spelt the beginning of the end for the Lions and gets our award.
The villain of the match: None here. Paul Schoeman's dangerous tackle – which resulted in a yellow card – is the closest event to anything villainous.
For the Free State Cheetahs:
Tries:Petersen 3, Jordaan, Benjamin, Blommetjies
Cons: Marais 3, Zeilinga 2
Pens: Marais 5
For the Golden Lions:
Tries:Mahuza 2, Lerm
Yellow cards: Cyle Brink (Golden Lions, 26 – repeat offences, offside), Ryno Benjamin (Free State Cheetahs, 48 – repeat infringements, offside), Paul Schoeman (Free State Cheetahs, 61 – foul play, no arms used in tackle)
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter (captain), 12 Nico Lee, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Niel Marais, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Reniel Hugo , 4 Justin Basson, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche.
Replacement: 16 Jacques Du Toit, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Armandt Koster, 19 Henco Venter, 20 Tian Meyer, 21 Fred Zeilinga, 22 Ryno Benjamin, 23 Conrad Van Vuuren.
Golden Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Koch Marx, 13 Jacques Nel, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Fabian Booysen, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Albertus Smith (captain), 5 Bobby de Wee, 4 Ruan Ackermann, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Corné Fourie, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Ruaan Lerm, 21 Francois de Klerk, 22 Nicolaas Hanekom, 23 Sylvian Mahuza.
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant referees: Quinton Immelman, Rodney Boneparte
TMO: Marius Jonker