Cheetahs run WP ragged in Bloem
CURRIE CUP MATCH REPORT: The Cheetahs put their campaign firmly back on track with a bonus-point 38-21 win over Western Province in Bloemfontein on Wednesday.
Leading 11-0 after a scrappy first half, the Cheetahs and WP scored three tries each in an entertaining second half.
However, the boot of scrumhalf and captain Ruan Pienaar proved decisive – as he kicked two conversions and four penalties, as well as scoring a crucial second-half try.
Having secured their first win of the season against the Pumas in their previous outing – a nail-biting 17-16 triumph – tries by Pienaar, Duncan Saal, David Brits and Cohen Jasper saw the Free Staters continue their upward curve in a big way.
Exceptional defence and the counter-attacking brilliance of Clayton Blommetjies set them up for success and while they’re still at the bottom of the log and left with plenty of catching up to do, the emphatic upset keeps the Cheetahs in the hunt.
For the visitors, introspection will have to be done as they have now lost two on the trot with this defeat in Bloemfontein coming after the shock 28-30 loss to Griquas at home.
They failed to convert territorial supremacy into points in a first half they dominated, but finished scoreless, didn’t get enough reward for the lion’s share of possession they had in the second stanza as well and slipped far too many tackles.
The Cheetahs started like a house on fire with Saal scoring inside the opening minute.
A brilliant skip pass by Brits created space for Jeandré Rudolph, who shifted the ball to his wing, who swerved past the final defender to get the hosts off to the perfect start. Pienaar’s conversion attempt sailed wide.
Tim Swiel, one of the shining lights of the Stormers’ 3-49 loss to the British and Irish Lions at the weekend, was unsuccessful with his first kick at goal as well moments later.
It was all Western Province in the opening quarter, John Dobson’s men stringing together passes and gaining ample ground with their driving mauls to set up camp in the Cheetahs’ 22.
The visitors simply couldn’t unlock the determined defence of the home team, who conceded several penalties but tackled like Trojans. There were also vital turnovers on the deck, first by No 8 Aidon Davis and then by fullback Blommetjies.
The two closest calls saw an ambitious last pass by John Schickerling to Swiel not go to hand before Marnus van der Merwe did well to hold up Leon Lyons over the tryline. A second missed attempt at goal by the usually reliable Swiel in the 27th minute added to Western Province’s frustration.
On the 30-minute mark and with Pienaar at the forefront, the Cheetahs returned to the attacking 22 for the first time since Saal’s flash try and unlike their Cape Town counterparts, they capitalized with their influential skipper slotting two penalty goals to give them an 11-0 lead at half-time despite having just 40 percent of the ball and 31 percent territory.
Four minutes into the second half, Western Province finally got onto the board with Marcel Theunissen floating a beautiful offload to Evan Roos to rush in a try converted by Swiel.
The Cheetahs hit back immediately, however, Blommetjies breaking before a kick by Brandon Thomson bounced up for Brits to score.
Blommetjies was at it again moments later, carving up the defence and putting Pienaar over for a try, with the latter’s two successful conversions pushing the scoreline out to 25-7 after 50 minutes.
Roos, who’s been in red-hot form in the hooped No.8 jersey, responded with a powerful carry that saw him break two tackles for a second seven-pointer, but again, the visitors conceded points soon afterwards, this time, three off the boot of Pienaar.
Leading 28-14 as the match entered the final quarter, the Cheetahs had their tails up, but Western Province wasn’t going away and after a sustained onslaught, it looked like Andre-Hugo Venter had scored from a driving maul. In a cruel blow for the Capetonians, however, TMO Marius van der Westhuizen correctly ruled that the hooker had knocked on as he attempted to ground the ball in contact.
Pienaar kicked a fourth penalty goal six minutes from full-time to take his personal tally to 21, before Jasper capped off a cracking evening for the Cheetahs as he collected a kick to score the bonus-point try, which was converted by replacement flyhalf Reinhardt Fortuin.
Thomas Bursey scored a try in the final play of the game that Sacha Mngomezulu converted, which would’ve been little consolation for the beaten Capetonians.
Man of the match: For Western Province hard-working forwards Evan Roos, Nama Xaba and John Schickerling were impressive. Some of the Cheetahs’ big men – like Junior Pokomela and Jeandré Rudolph – also got through a mountain of work. For the home team, the general was scrumhalf and captain Ruan Pienaar, who wins our award for his calm demeanour and 21 points – a crucial second-half try, two conversions and four penalties.
For the Cheetahs
Tries: Saal, Brits, Pienaar, Jasper
Cons: Pienaar 2
Pens: Pienaar 4
For Western Province
Tries: Roos 2, Bursey
Cons: Swiel 2, Mngomezulu
Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Duncan Saal, 13 David Brits, 12 Siya Masuku, 11 Cohen Jasper, 10 Brandon Thomson, 9 Ruan Pienaar (captain), 8 Aidon Davis, 7 Junior Pokomela, 6 Jeandré Rudolph, 5 Jean Droste, 4 Rynier Bernardo, 3 Hencus van Wyk, 2 Marnus van der Merwe, 1 Aluluthu Tshakweni.
Replacements: 16 Louis van der Westhuizen, 17 Cameron Dawson, 18 Conraad van Vuuren, 19 Victor Sekekete, 20 Jacques Potgieter, 21 Zinedine Booysen, 22 Reinhardt Fortuin, 23 Chris Smit.
Western Province: 15 Sergeal Petersen, 14 Tristan Leyds, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Cornel Smit, 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Tim Swiel, 9 Godlen Masimla, 8 Evan Roos, 7 Marcel Theunissen, 6 Nama Xaba, 5 John Schickerling, 4 Ernst van Rhyn (captain), 3 Neethling Fouche, 2 Andre-Hugo Venter, 1 Leon Lyons.
Replacements: 16 JJ Kotze, 17 Dian Bleuler, 18 Lee-Marvin Mazibuko, 19 Justin Basson, 20 Johan du Toit, 21 Thomas Bursey, 22 Sacha Mngomezulu, 23 Leolin Zas.
Referee: Morné Ferreira
Assistant referees: Local appointments
TMO: Marius van der Westhuizen