Cheetahs hang on for thrilling win
SUPER RUGBY UNLOCKED REPORT: The Cheetahs cemented their place at the top of the standings with a thrilling 19-17 win over a hard-charging Bulls team in Bloemfontein on Friday.
The teams scored one try each in a bruising encounter, with a missed conversion minutes from the final hooter settling the result.
The Bulls had their opportunities, but their high error rate meant they simply were not always able to turn pressure into points.
Add to that their poor discipline at a crucial stage in the second half and the Cheetahs – who held a 10-point (13-3) lead at the break, managed to hang on for the win.
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The Bulls suffered an early blow when veteran back Gio Aplon left the field on a medical cart with a serious-looking knee injury after just five minutes.
Ten minutes later the Cheetahs lost their captain, Ruan Pienaar, when he injured his knee in a tackle behind a ruck. The hit, from an offside position, appears to have damaged the veteran Springbok’s MCL on his left knee.
From the resulting penalty, flyhalf Tiaan Schoeman opened the scoring – giving the hosts a 3-0 lead.
Morné Steyn replied with a penalty for the Bulls in the 23rd minute – 3-all.
The Cheetahs replied in emphatic fashion, with a sublime setpiece try – from a line-out the ball went wide, where Malcolm Jaer came off his wing to set up Rosko Specman, who strolled over on the left wing. Schoeman’s conversion made it 10-3 after 26 minutes.
Just past the 35-minute mark another Cheetahs Bok, two-time World Cup winner Frans Steyn, won a breakdown penalty for his team. Schoeman, from 50 metres out, made it 13-3.
That is how it stayed till the half-time break – with the Cheetahs good value for their nearly 60 percent possession in the first half. The five turnovers won by the Cheetahs certainly contributed to the opening half dominance.
Just past the 50-minute mark Steyn – following a breakdown penalty – narrowed the gap to 6-13.
Five minutes later Schoeman restored his team’s 10-point lead, 16-6, with another long-range penalty.
The penalty count continued to mount against the Bulls and just short of the hour mark Schoeman made it 19-6.
In the 61st minute the referee finally lost patience with the Bulls – sending Ruan Nortje to the sin bin for repeated infringements. Schoeman pushed his penalty shot wide of the goalposts.
Just short of the 65-minute mark Steyn made it a 10-point game after a breakdown penalty.
Five minutes later, after another breakdown penalty, replacement Chris Smith – from five metres inside his own half – narrowed the gap to seven points, 12-19.
The Cheetahs were now the team making the mistakes, almost panicking. The penalty count also swung the other way.
The Bulls made good use of the possession – with a maul from five metres out giving Joe van Zyl an armchair ride over the line. This time Smith’s conversion attempt drifted wide – leaving the Cheetahs a 19-17 lead to hang onto for two minutes.
The Bulls attempted to launch one last raid, but it was yet another error that saw the game come to an end.
Man of the match: Morné Steyn’s calm demeanour and accurate goal-kicking kept the Bulls in the game for the first hour. Marco van Staden was a menace at the breakdown and won several penalties for the visitors. For the Cheetahs forwards like Jasper Wiese, Junior Pokomela and Carl Wegner got through a mountain of work. Andisa Ntsila was arguably the home team’s most productive forward. The back-three of Clayton Blommetjies, Malcolm Jaer and Rosko Specman – with the pace and vision – also made a huge impact. Tiaan Schoeman’s goal-kicking also contributed to the final result. However, our award goes to two-time World Cup winner Frans Steyn – his and that monstrous boot constantly coming into play. For good measure, he also won a breakdown penalty.
For the Cheetahs
Pens: Schoeman 4
For the Bulls
Try: J van Zyl
Pens: Steyn 3, Smith
Yellow card: Ruan Nortje (Bulls, 61 – repeat infringements, coming in at the side of a maul)
Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Malcolm Jaer, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Ruan Pienaar (captain), 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Junior Pokomela, 6 Andisa Ntsila, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Reinach Venter, 1 Charles Marais.
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Boan Venter, 18 Erich de Jager, 19 JP du Preez, 20 Aidon Davis, 21 Chris Massyn, 22 Tian Meyer, 23 William Small-Smith.
Bulls: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 David Kriel, 13 Cornal Hendricks, 12 Clinton Swart, 11 Jade Stighling, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Duane Vermeulen (Captain), 7 Arno Botha, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Joe van Zyl, 17 Gerhard Steenekamp, 18 Mornay Smith, 19 Sintu Manjezi, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Stedman Gans.
Referee: Jadezweni Cwengile
Assistant referees: Colby Griffin, Crouse Ben
TMO: Jacobs AJ