Cheetahs outmuscle Bulls to cement top spot
MATCH REPORT: The Cheetahs cemented their place at the top of the Currie Cup standings with an impressive 32-7 demolition of the Bulls in a Round Three encounter in Bloemfontein on Friday.
The hosts outscored their guests by five tries to one, just a week ahead of their Challenge Cup last 16 trip to France and a showdown with European giants Toulon.
While it was far from perfect, it was a good dress rehearsal for what will be the biggest game of the Cheetahs’ storied history.
* To recap all the Bloemfontein drama, CLICK HERE!
It was scrappy, nervous start by both teams.
The Cheetahs, after taking the ball through numerous phases, won a penalty and set up a line-out drive inside the Bulls’ 22. However, it amounted to nothing – conceding a penalty at the tackle close to the Bulls’ line.
A kick directly into touch by Frans Steyn, then afforded the Bulls their first attacking line-out deep inside Cheetahs’ territory. Two subsequent penalties allowed the Bulls a couple of line-out drives just five metres from the Cheetahs’ line – the first which was effectively nullified by the Cheetahs and the second resulting in a penalty to the Cheetahs for illegal play by the visitors.
Ruan Pienaar eventually opened the scoring in the 11th minute – a penalty for a breakdown offence by the Bulls inside their 22.
Bulls counterpart Keagan Johannes had a chance to level the scores after 14 minutes, but was well wide of the mark and the Bulls had another attempted line-out drive turned over by the home team.
Going into the second quarter, the Cheetahs had another line-out drive deep inside the Bulls’ 22 and this time – despite a good look by the TMO – flank Gideon van der Merwe was awarded a try. Pienaar made it a 10-point game with his conversion.
The Bulls hit straight back – hooker Jan-Hendrik Wessels getting the try, after a stray pass by the Cheetahs allowed the Bulls to counter against a fractured defence. The Franco Knoetze conversion made it a three-point game – 7-10.
The Cheetahs’ response was swift and brutal – another dynamic maul, with Marnus van der Merwe getting the armchair ride this time. This time Pienaar hit the upright with his conversion attempt – 15-7, which is how it stayed till half-time.
The intensity from both teams went up a couple of levels after the break, with some real ‘feeling’ in the contest.
It was Munier Hartzenberg who got the scoreboard ticking again – collecting a perfect cross-field kick from Reinhardt Fortuin. Pienaar hit the upright a second time, leaving his team with a 13-point lead – 20-7.
Dancing feet Daniel Kasende had a couple of great try-scoring opportunities, but his hands let hi, down.
The bonus-point try came off the back off another powerful maul – Sibabalo Qoma the man with the ball in hand when they went over the line. Pienaar added the extras – 27-7.
The Bulls now threw everything into the fray to salvage something from the game.
However, the Cheetahs won a crucial maul turnover near their own line, with less than 15 minutes on the clock and won a couple of penalties just when it seemed the Bulls were beginning to string some phases together.
If that was not enough to frustrate the Bulls, the ball’s bounce also did not favour the visitors – several kicks bouncing aimlessly into touch, when it called for them to stay in the field – to go with the line-out turnovers the Cheetahs won.
There was a late flurry by the Cheetahs, with Cohen Jasper getting his team’s fifth try – making the final score 32-7.
Man of the match: Players Daniel Kasende, even though his hands let him down, Frans Steyn, Munier Hartzenberg, Reinhardt Fortuin and Ruan Pienaar impressed in the backline. No.8 Jeandré Rudolph, captain Victor Sekekete, hooker Marnus van der Merwe and Sibabalo Qoma were amongst the Cheetahs’ most productive forwards. Our award goes to hard-working flank Gideon van der Merwe – an invaluable asset, despite the occasional penalty.
For the Cheetahs
Tries: G van der Merwe, M van der Merwe, Hartzenberg, Qoma, Jasper
Cons: Pienaar 2
For the Bulls
Yellow card: Muller Uys (Bulls, 27 – cynical foul, not reiterating 10 metres)
Cheetahs: 15 Cohen Jasper, 14 Daniel Kasende, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Munier Hartzenberg, 10 Reinhardt Fortuin, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Jeandré Rudolph, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Gideon van der Merwe, 5 Victor Sekekete (captain), 4 Rynier Bernardo, 3 Hencus van Wyk, 2 Marnus van der Merwe, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Replacements: 16 Marko Janse van Rensburg, 17 Alulutho Tshakweni, 18 Lawrence Victor, 19 Sibabalo Qoma, 20 Daniel Maartens, 21 Rewan Kruger, 22 David Brits, 23 Tapiwa Mafura
Bulls: 15 Franco Knoetze, 14 Quewin Nortje, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Lionel Mapoe, 11 Kabelo Mokoena, 10 Chris Barent Smit, 9 Keagan Johannes, 8 Muller Uys, 7 Mihhali Mosi, 6 Cameron Hanekom, 5 Reinhardt Ludwig, 4 Jacques Du Plessis, 3 Robert Hunt, 2 Jan-Hendrik Wessels, 1 Lizo Gqoboka
Replacements: 16 Joe Van Zyl, 17 Jacques Van Rooyen, 18 Sebastian Lombard, 19 Juan Van Der Westhuizen, 20
Phumzile Maqondwana, 21 Bernard Van Der Linde, 22 Adriaan Joubert, 23 Juan Mostert.
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni
Assistant referees: Local
TMO: Egon Seconds