Cheetahs show last-minute mettle

2013-04-07 10:00

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Bloemfontein side snatch victory from disbelieving Stormers.

In their respective wins and draws, the Sharks and the Southern Kings set a benchmark for gritty displays when backs are against the wall.

What should have been a spicy encounter between an ascendant Cheetahs and a dissipating Stormers team promised little and delivered it.

Then again, South African derbies seem set on remaining cautious affairs.

The Cheetahs are now a team not to be taken lightly, even though the Bulls have never lost to them and this year’s Stormers will not make the Sharks lose any sleep.

It should not have gone down to the last kick, as the Cheetahs should have wrapped up the match much earlier and their winning streak now moves to five, their best ever start to a Super Rugby campaign.

It was their first win over the Stormers since 2007.

The Stormers have plenty of head scratching to do.

It was a pretty disjointed effort from both sides, but the Stormers were the more frayed outfit.

The pressure of an irregular start to the season was evident in their approach.

No one seemed to want to take responsibility and it seemed like a throwback to the Kobus van der Merwe days of brainless and directionless rugby, at least for the first 10 minutes.

What they did right was to kick into space well and dominate the line-out.

Other than those facets, everything else had a Cheetah paw print on it.

Aside from two ruck infringements, one of which opened the scoring in the ninth minute through Joe Pietersen’s boot, they behaved far more aggressively than their slender builds should allow.

Jaco Taute’s casual approach to a ball rolling away from him exemplified the farcically relaxed mentality.

Piet van Zyl’s harassing style paid off with Robert Ebersohn crashing over in the far-left corner.

It was a measly return for 20 minutes of dominance.

From that moment on, until the 32nd minute when Juan de Jongh finished off a rare, but sparkling, session of play, the rugby was sterile, to say the least.

Both defences hardly let each other through half gaps and the back lines were content to play oval-ball tennis.

It took a moment of magic from the irrepressible Gio Aplon to ignite the game.

His two chips over the Cheetahs’ defence provided further proof of his ability to turn rocks into bread.

It led to De Jongh’s second try.

The Cheetahs coaching staff were not pleased, with Stuart Berry’s blind eye to a Stormers kick that came off a Stormers player.

What cannot be disputed is that Aplon is the best counterattacker in the country and, from that moment on, the Cheetahs kicked far more judiciously.

What the Stormers did not bank on was the introduction of Sarel Pretorius.

Van Zyl did not have a bad game, but did not put the requisite pressure on Nic Groom. His charge down and gather, bookended by a bracketed sprint to the try line, was the highlight of his seven-minute cameo, before he limped off.

The substitution was a game changer, as the Cheetahs had quick service for their very efficient back line.

In his second start, Burton Francis was again his unflustered self.

As they have done all season, the Cheetahs did not step back from the fierce front row encounters, even though Andries Bekker did not have to work hard to decode their line-outs.

Francis’ sharpshooting at least reminded fans that there is life after Johan Goosen.

The kickathons continued through the last quarter, and Francis kept his nerve at the end, sending the Cheetahs faithful into delirium.


Cheetahs – Tries: Robert Ebersohn, Sarel Pretorius

Conversions: Burton Francis (2)

Penalties: Francis (3)

Drop goal: Francis

Stormers – Tries: Juan de Jongh (2)

Conversions: Joe Pietersen

Penalties: Pietersen (4)

Other Super Rugby results

Yesterday: Force 23; Rebels 30

Hurricanes 41; Waratahs 29

Friday: Sharks 21; Crusaders 17

Brumbies 28; Southern Kings 28

Blues 29; Highlanders 18

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