Cheetahs edge Force Down Under ahead of Euro return
MATCH REPORT: The Cheetahs took a vital step forward ahead of their return to Europe, as they beat the Western Force 32-22 in their fourth and final encounter of the Challenge Series.
The Cheetahs claimed the series three-one, after winning the first two matches in Bloemfontein and losing in Perth last week.
However, the bigger picture is about the Cheetahs’ preparations for their second stint in the European Challenge Cup, which gets underway in early December.
The Force were on the back foot early against the Currie Cup champions, who raced into an early 14-0 lead and were ahead 21-8 by half-time – courtesy of two tries by Marnus van der Merwe, off the back of a powerful maul.
The Force fought to the bitter end, but a fourth try, by Tapiwa Mafura, and two late Ruan Pienaar penalties sealed the win.
The home capitalised on three Cheetahs yellow cards to close within a converted try in the final 10 minutes, following scores from Rewita Biddle and Tom Horton.
Experienced Springbok utility Ruan Pienaar, however, kicked a decisive penalty in the final few minutes to ensure the Cheetahs closed out the victory, claiming the four-game series.
Cheetahs No.8 Jeandre Rudolph, who scored the opening try, was named Player of the Match, while hooker Marnus van der Merwe grabbed a brace.
Pienaar’s accuracy was influential, kicking five from six off the T.
The Cheetahs’ forward pack caused the Force problems all game, reverting with success to rolling mauls for two of their four tries
There were plenty of positives to take for the Force, cheered on by approximately 1,800 fans at Claremont, who showed grit to stay in the contest and almost pull off a late shock.
For the Western Force
Tries: Potter, Biddle, Horton
Cons: Kuenzle 2
For the Cheetahs
Tries: Rudolph, Van der Merwe 2, Mafura
Cons: Pienaar 3
Pens: Pen 2
Yellow cards: Daniel Kasende (Cheetahs), Marko Janse van Rensburg (Cheetahs), Friedle Olivier (Cheetahs)
Western Force: 15 Harry Potter, 14 George Poolman, 13 Sam Spink, 12 Bayley Kuenzle, 11 Ronan Leahy, 10 Max Burey (co-captain), 9 Henry Robertson, 8 Jeremy Williams (co-captain), 7 Carlo Tizzano, 6 Fa’amanu Kalolo, 5 Lopeti Faifua, 4 Jackson Pugh, 3 Tiaan Tauakipulu, 2 Tom Horton, 1 Marley Pearce.
Replacements – from: 16 Albert Alcock, 17 Angus Wagner, 18 Regi Churchward, 19 Reagan Leslie, 21 Titi Nofogatotoa, 22 Ian Prior, 23 Reesjan Pasitoa, 24 Rewita Biddle.
Cheetahs: 15 Tapiwa Mafura, 14 Daniel Kasende, 13 Evardi Boshoff, 12 Reinhardt Fortuin, 11 Cohen Jasper, 10 Ruan Pienaar, 9 Rewan Kruger, 8 Jeandre Rudolph, 7 Friedle Olivier, 6 Gideon van der Merwe, 5 Victor Sekekete (captain), 4 Rynier Bernardo, 3 Laurence Victor, 2 Marnus van der Merwe, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Replacements: 6 Marko Janse van Rensburg, 17 Alulutho Tshakweni, 18 Hencus van Wyk, 19 Carl Wegner, 20 Daniel Maartens, 21 George Lourens, 22 Abner van Reenen, 23 Robert Ebersohn.
Referee: Graham Cooper
* Picture credit: Dan Carson photography