Cheetahs are true champions
CURRIE CUP FINAL REPORT: The Free State Cheetahs held on in the face of a fast-charging Golden Lions team to be crowned 2019 Currie Cup champions.
The hosts, Cheetahs, held a 31-7 lead sat half-time in an entertaining encounter in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
Three second-half tries by the Lions were not enough, the Cheetahs holding on for a 31-28 win – a Ruan Pienaar penalty proving to be the difference.
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The Currie Cup is alive, brilliantly alive. And there were lots of people who produced this joyful, colorful, zestful Currie Cup final afternoon in Bloemfontein.
There were 46 players and match officials, all intent of making the match the best it could be. The people turned up, 39 000 of them and their noise went on throughout the match, not ceasing, just increasing in excitement now and then. And the players responded with high tempo action.
It was wonderful and it was the 130-year-old competition that did it. The rugby powers must surely realise that the Currie Cup is a treasure, not a nuisance to be got rid of as quickly as possible.
The match itself was played at great speed as two sides took every opportunity to run with the ball – four tries apiece and a single penalty to make the difference between glee and tears.
It was interesting that the Free State Cheetahs scored all their points in the first half, none at all in the second, though they have been par excellence the second-half team of the Currie Cup as Western Province and the Sharks know only too well. This time it was the Golden Lions who had the better second half, certainly the better last 10 minutes when they scored 21 points with only the relentless beat of the minutes to stop them.
The Golden Lions played in blue and white, their original colours back in 1891, as if to say: This is not going to die. The Cheetahs played in their white while orange dominated the stands.
The proceedings started on a sombre note with a period of silence to honour the passing of Chester Williams, mostly a Western Province man but in 1999 a scorer for the Lions when they won the Currie Cup in Durban.
A Boeing flew back and forth over the stadium and Janice Roos led the singing of the national anthem. Shaun Reynolds kicked off and the game was on, as both sides ran and passed and played at a frantic pace.
There were tackles and there were turnovers to create surprise. Twice the Free State had kickable penalties and twice they kicked out for attacking lineouts. The second time it worked as they mauled at the front of the lineout and suddenly Joseph Dweba burst over for a try in the left corner. From touch Ruan Pienaar converted. 7-0 after 12 hectic minutes.
Marnus Schoeman won a turnover on the left, and there was Stean Pienaar racing down the left, swerving infield till the Golden Lions spread the ball wide right and centre Wandisile Simelane romped over for the try. That made it 7-7 after 15 minutes.
Two minutes later the Cheetahs had the lead back. Marnus Schoeman was penalised twice for not giving the tackled player a fair chance to play the ball, and, on the second occasion, instead of having Tian Schoeman kick for touch, Ruan Pienaar goaled the penalty, a significant score as it turned out, as that was the difference between laughter and tears after the final whistle.
Reynolds was close with a long attempt at a drop goal.
The Golden Lions lost a lineout just inside the Free State half on Free Staters’ left. They went wide left where Benhard Janse van Rensburg took a gap and passed to speedy William Small-Smith. The wing raced 51 metres to score in the right corner, whence Pienaar goaled the conversion. 17-7 after 26 minutes.
From the kick-off the Cheetahs ran and they were attacking when Ox Nche charged down Reynolds’s clearing kick, gathered the ball and set up an attack. They went wide and fullback Clayton Blommetjies dummied, beat two defenders and scored. 24-7
Two penalties in quick succession gave the Cheetahs a five-metre lineout. Tall lock Walt Steenkamp caught the throw-in and forced his way over, with help, for a try. 31-7 after 38 minutes.
In the next 42 minutes the Cheetahs did not score a single point. They thought that they had done so when Jasper Wiese was over within a minute of the start of the half but the TMO was able to detect a Pienaar knock-on at the tackle just before the “try”. No try.
There was activity but compared with the first half, this half was messy, partly because the Free State conceded so many penalties – 10 in the half after they had conceded only two in the first half. They were penalised no fewer than six times at scrums during the match.
Their heap of penalties had a direct result in the sin-binning of lock Sintu Manjezi when he collapsed a maul.
A man down, the Free Staters upped their speed on defence but with nine minutes to play, they cracked.
The Golden Lions attacked from a five-metre lineout, battering at the line till replacement scrumhalf Dillon Smit sold a little dummy and was over for a try, the first points of the second half, 31 minutes into the half. 31-14.
The Golden Lions attacked from the kick-off and, just outside the Free State 22, replacement loose forward James Venter burst through and scored under the posts. 31-21 with five minutes to play.
Sadly there were two yellow cards after this. Not for the first time in the match, there was a childish squabble and the referee was as good as his word when he sent Dillon Smit and Abongile Nonkontwana to the sin bin as the main protagonists.
The Golden Lions attacked. The Cheetahs sought to run down the clock from a scrum but the Golden Lions won a turnover. Simelane was close and then Venter was in for his second try. Before the conversion could be taken, the siren sounded the end of the match, and the Cheetahs won the Currie Cup in all its golden spendour.
It was a good place to be – Free State Stadium on the occasion of this Currie Cup Final.
Man of the Match: There were many candidates, but our vote goes to Free State’s powerfully built hooker, Jospeh Dweba.
For the Free State Cheetahs:
Tries: Dweba, Small-Smith, Blommetjies, Steenkamp, Wiese
Cons: Pienaar 4
For the Golden Lions:
Tries: Simelane, Smit, Venter 2
Cons: Reynolds 4
Yellow cards: Sintu Manjezi (Free State Cheetahs, 65 – repeated infringements, collapsing the maul), Dillon Smit (Golden Lions, 76 – foul play, fighting), Abongile Nonkontwana (Free State Cheetahs, 76 – foul play, fighting)
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 Dries Swanepoel, 11 Tian Meyer (captain), 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Henco Venter, 7 Junior Pokomela, 6 Gerhard Olivier, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Sintu Manjezi, 3 Erich de Jager, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche.
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Reinach Venter, 19 JP du Preez, 20 Jasper Wiese, 21 Abongile Nonkontwana, 22 Louis Fouche, 22 Darren Adonis.
Golden Lions: 15 Tyrone Green, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Duncan Matthews, 11 Stean Pienaar, 10 Shaun Reynolds, 9 Ross Cronje (captain), 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Pieter Jansen, 1 Dylan Smith.
Replacements: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Nathan McBeth, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 20 Len Massyn, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Jan-Louis la Grange, 23 James Venter.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant referees: AJ Jacobs, Egon Seconds
TMO: Shaun Veldsman