Cheetahs break their drought to get back in the race
CURRIE CUP MATCH REPORT: The Cheetahs won their first match in the second half of the season, when they beat a willing Pumas team 35-31 in Nelspruit on Friday.
The win – in testing conditions, following a considerable amount of rain before and during the match – ensured the Cheetahs stayed alive in the play-off race.
Trailing 7-12 at halftime, after a scrappy first half in the wet weather, the visitors dominate the second half.
It would be easy to blame the loss on the errant boot of stand-in flyhalf Devon Williams – who failed with two conversions and two penalty attempts.
However, the problem was more telling than the 10 points missed in a game where both teams scored five tries.
The Pumas’ discipline and concentration let them down in the second half – with seven consecutive penalties at a crucial period midway through the half, although some of those can be debated.
In all, they conceded 15 penalties, but the second-half lapses gifted the visitors the foothold in the game they could not get before the break.
* As it happened. To recap all the drama, CLICK HERE!
The Pumas had a couple of early line-out drives inside the Cheetahs 22, which they failed to convert, and after six minutes Devon Williams had a shot at goal – which also drifted well wide.
In the 10th minute, the home team finally converted their early pressure. Hooker Simon Westraadt got an armchair ride from another powerful maul. Williams was wide with the conversion attempt – 5-0.
Frans Steyn had a shot at goal as the first quarter came to an end, but he was also wide of the mark.
Just short of the half-hour mark wing William Small-Smith put the Cheetahs on the board, but not before the TMO had several looks at the replay. It was eventually awarded and Frans Steyn added the conversion for a 7-5 lead.
The home side regained the lead when burly lock Le Roux Roets drove over from close range – with some help from his teammates – following a quick-tap penalty and a few powerful phases. Williams succeeded with his first kick of the match – making it 12-7 after 33 minutes.
That’s how it stayed till half-time.
The Pumas stretched their lead to 10 points, 17-7, early in the second half – when flank Daniel Maartens forced his way over. The conversion was wide as Williams’ kicking woes continued.
The flyhalf also missed with a 55-metre penalty a few minutes later.
The Cheetahs responded in emphatic fashion when Andisa Ntsila got an armchair ride from a fast-moving maul. Steyn added the conversion – 14-17.
Just on the hour mark, the Cheetahs regained the lead – Ntsila getting another easy ride over the line. Steyn’s conversion made it 21-17.
Soon afterwards the Pumas were reduced to 14 men – the result of a ridiculous call of a dangerous tackle – when both the ball carrier and the tackler were slipping and both less than a metre from the ground when their heads collided. Willie Engelbrecht, the Pumas’ tackler, was sent to the sin bin for what was an accidental collision.
The Cheetahs launched another line-out maul and this time replacement hooker Louis van der Westhuizen had the easy ride over the line. Steyn’s conversion made it 28-17.
Willie Engelbrecht, soon after returning from the sin bin, barged his way over to get his team back in the game. Replacement scrumhalf Ginter Smuts took over the kicking duties and added the conversion – 24-28, with just under 10 minutes remaining.
The Cheetahs opened the gap to a safe margin when a strong scrum allowed a sweeping a blindside move that saw replacement scrumhalf Tian Meyer sprint over. Steyn added the conversion – 35-24 with two minutes remaining.
The Pumas had the final say – a powerful maul allowing replacement hooker Abraham le Roux to get a converted try that saw the home team earn a losing bonus point – 31-35.
Man of the match: Luther Obi had his moments on the wing for the Pumas, while hooker Simon Westraadt had a very busy first half for the home team. Willie Engelbrecht, despite the questionable yellow card, was the home team’s most productive forward. Frans Steyn settled down in the flyhalf role in the second half, after a scrappy opening 40 minutes, and his kicking was the big influence on the game. Andisa Ntsila was also very busy – both with the ball in hand and on defence – and was good value for his two tries. Our award goes to Cheetahs lock and captain Carl Wegner – who produced some impressive carries, running the team’s line-outs with aplomb and making a match-high 14 tackles.
For the Pumas
Tries: Westraadt, Roets, Maartens, Engelbrecht, Le Roux
Cons: Williams, Smuts 2
For the Cheetahs
Tries: Small-Smith, Ntsila 2, Van der Westhuizen, Meyer
Cons: Steyn 5
Yellow card: Willie Engelbrecht (Pumas, 61 – foul play, dangerous tackle)
Pumas: 15 Tapiwa Mafura, 14 Etienne Taljaard, 13 Erich Cronje, 12 Ali Mgijima, 11 Luther Obi, 10 Devon Williams, 9 Chriswill September, 8 Willie Engelbrecht, 7 Phumzile Maqondwana, 6 Daniel Maartins, 5 Pieter Jansen van Vuuren (captain), 4 Le Roux Roets, 3 Ignatius Prinsloo, 2 Simon Westraadt, 1 Morgan Naude.
Replacements: 16 Abraham le Roux, 17 Wikus Groenewald, 18 Brandon Valentyn, 19 Ewart Potgieter, 20 Ginter Smuts, 21 Tiaan Botes, 22 Morne Joubert, 23 Dewald Maritz.
Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Duncan Saal, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 William Small-Smith, 10 Frans Steyn, 9 Ruben de Haas, 8 Jeandré Rudolph, 7 Aidon Davis, 6 Andisa Ntsila, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Carl Wegner (captain), 3 Khutha Mchunu, 2 Marnus van der Merwe, 1 Boan Venter.
Replacements: 16 Louis van der Westhuizen, 17 Cameron Dawson, 18 Erich de Jager, 19 Teboho Mohojé, 20 Chris Massyn, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Reinhardt Fortuin, 23 Rhyno Smith.
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant referees: Aimee Barrett-Theron and Morne Ferreira
TMO: Lesego Legoete