Cheetahs stay alive with win in Bloem thriller
CURRIE CUP MATCH REPORT: The Cheetahs hung on for a thrilling 33-32 bonus-point win over Griquas in Bloemfontein on Wednesday.
The five tries to four win saw the Cheetahs moving to within touching distance of a top-four spot on the standings.
Griquas held a 10-point (29-19) lead at the end of a first half that produced seven tries – four to the visitors and three to the hosts.
The second half was a lot tenser, the first points in the second half was a George Whitehead penalty in the 64th minute.
Then a two-try blitz – the first from the restart and the second minutes later – turned the game on its head.
Griquas, who got two log points from the match, seemed in control of the scoreboard for most of the match.
Although they struggled in the line-outs, Griquas pounced on mistakes by their opponents, managed to exploit space in the wide channels and defended very well.
The Cheetahs, who bagged a full-house of five log points, enjoyed more possession and had territorial advantage, but made a number of costly mistakes, especially in the in red zone, which gave the visitors confidence.
However, later in the game the Free Staters played with more composure and forced errors from the visitors, which allowed Conraad van Vuuren (prop) and Junior Pokomela (flank) to score the tries that proved decisive in the end.
After a slow start, which saw the hosts score three tries to one in the first 18 minutes for a 19-10 lead, the men from the Northern Cape shifted to a higher gear.
David Brits (centre), Craig Barry (wing) and Marnus van der Merwe (hooker) – pouncing on a loose ball after a mistake by the Griqua line-out on their own line – all crossed for the Free Staters, while flyhalf George Whitehead scored all of the visitors’ points with a penalty goal and a converted try as the hosts looked to be in control after the first quarter.
But Griquas hit back hard, capitalising on their neighbours’ mistakes and creating opportunities to add three more five-pointers before the break.
Chris Hollis’ try came after his team turned over possession close to their try-line and the Griqua midfielder went over soon thereafter to close the gap to four points.
The Kimberlites then had a little bit of fortune as wing James Verity-Amm – back on loan with Griquas after a stint in Pretoria – intercepted inside his own half and raced away for a converted try that put the visitors in the lead for the first time in the game.
When Hanru Sirgel (flank) sped over after making a great break in the midfield for his team’s fourth try in the 38th minute, Griquas took a 10-point lead into the break.
The third quarter was like an arm wrestle, with the Cheetahs again missing out on a number of scoring opportunities.
But the final 20 minutes belonged to the hosts. After Whitehead added a penalty goal to put his side ahead by 32-19, the Cheetahs pounced twice in quick succession – Van Vuuren’s fortuitous try when he toed ahead after Griquas failed to control the restart, while Pokomela’s five-pointer came from sustained attack.
Ruan Pienaar’s tricky conversions put his side in the lead after which they set up camp in the visitors’ half to grind out the win.
Man of the match: For Griquas, there were many starts – wing Eduan Keyter, who even won turnovers at the breakdown, scrumhalf Stefan Ungerer marshalled the troops and also won turnovers at the breakdown, while flank Gideon van der Merwe was the visitors’ most productive player with his workrate, physicality and crucial turnovers. For the Cheetahs lock Victor Sekekete certainly put his hand up – not just with some strong carries, but also his value in the line-outs. Fullback Clayton Blommetjies had a shaky start, but came good after the break. Our award goes to Cheetahs captain Ruan Pienaar – who started at scrumhalf and moved to flyhalf after the break. His kicking game was gold, both out of hand and at posts, and he also added the spark in the second half that the Cheetahs backline needed.
For the Cheetahs
Tries: Brits, Barry, Van der Merwe, Van Vuuren, Pokomela
Cons: Pienaar 4
Tries: Whitehead, Hollis, Verity-Amm, Sirgel
Cons: Whitehead 3
Pens: Whitehead 2
Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Craig Barry, 13 David Brits, 12 Siya Masuka, 11 Malcolm Jaer, 10 Reinhardt Fortuin, 9 Ruan Pienaar (captain), 8 Aidon Davis, 7 Junior Pokomela, 6 Andisa Ntsila, 5 Jean Drosté, 4 Victor Sekekete, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Marnus van der Merwe, 1 Cameron Dawson.
Replacements: 16 Louis van der Westhuizen, 17 Alulutho Tshakweni, 18 Conraad van Vuuren, 19 Rynier Bernardo, 20 Reinier Viljoen, 21 Mihlali Mosi, 22 Tian Meyer, 23 Chris Smit.
Griquas: 15 Ashlon Davids, 14 Eduan Keyter, 13 Chris Hollis, 12 Johnathan Francke, 11 James Verity-Amm, 10 George Whitehead, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Ruan Steenkamp (captain), 7 Hanru Sirgel, 6 Gideon van der Merwe, 5 Stefan Willemse, 4 Adré Smith, 3 Erich de Jager, 2 Alandré van Rooyen, 1 Nqobisizwe Mxoli.
Replacements – from: 16 Janco Uys, 17 Andrew Beerwinkel, 18 Andries Schutte, 19 Johan Momsen, 20 Luyolo Dapula, 21 Raegan Oranje, 22 André Swarts, 23 Ederies Arendse, 24 Andrew Kuhn, 25 Cameron Lindsay, 26 Fiela Boshoff.
Referee: Griffin Colby
Assistant referees: Local appointments
TMO: Ben Crouse