Cheetahs show how it’s done!

2015-06-17 06:00

IN AND around Bethlehem, Eastern Free State, they grew them like mielies – great Springboks, shooting up all over the place.

Famous names, great characters: Mannetjies Roux (as he matured some, including Craven himself, named him “one of the finest centres of all time”), Henry Honiball, Os du Randt (eulogies about the great prop have been endlessly written), Hempies du Toit, ‘’Spiere’’ du Toit (not surprisingly granddad of the new edition Pieter-Steph), Tiaan Strauss, Tommy Laubsher and dozens more. You could go on and on... But enough.

Now with the Du Plessis brothers, prop Jannie, the elder, and hooker Bismarck, leaving for the goldfields of France, the Springboks – after the England-held World Cup starting in September – will be the poorer for their departure. The two “boets” are of that special type the Eastern Free State breeds, and last Saturday, even though it took the Sharks an age to get their engines going in the Super Rugby clash with the Stormers at Durban’s Kings Park, the class of these two, Bismarck in particular, stood out. If elder brother Jannie doesn’t seem to be shining, it’s because mostly in his immovability, like Gibraltar, he’s always there, right in your face.

For a while, in a game often unconstructive, aimlessly moving to-and-fro, it seemed as though the much denuded Stormers might spring a surprise. After 35 minutes they still led 9-8. Then finally the Sharks woke up with the first of five tries, to lead 13-9 at the break. In the end, though much of it was still filled with untidy rugby, the Durbanites emerged comfortable 43-12 winners. Now on Monday morning it appeared Gary Gold had stepped down as coach. What next? Rugby at top level in KZN is in a first class mess.

Easily the match of the day belonged to the Free State Cheetahs, who gave the Bulls, in their Loftus Versfeld backyard, a rugby lesson in pride, courage and grim faces that said, “Get knotted!” The way Cheetahs took the game by the throat to lead 28-10 at the break and finish off at 42-29, despite Francois Hougaardt’s 79th minute try that brought down the curtain on an otherwise undistinguished effort by the home side, was stunning. The Bulls seldom roared. Mostly they just mooed.

No wonder coach, Frans Ludeke, is being promoted to a higher rank. Of course he’s done well for the Bulls. But there comes a time: time to move on.

The Cheetahs, having started like a house on fire, seemed only to grow a little weary after Ryno Benjamin’s try number six in the 73rd minute. The entire Cheetahs XV deserve mention, but in particular fullback Willie le Roux, with his uncanny eye for the moment, while others such as Sarel Petorius, Neil Jordaan, centre Francois Venter and little Clayton Blommetjies also shone. What a game! What a start for new coach, former Springbok Franco Smith. What next? After the World Cup, Willie le Roux will enrich the Sharks with a move to Durban; a slew of players will be retiring; the likes of Pierre Spies and others are heading overseas, chasing the dollar – why not? – and there’s a feast of rugby in Santa’s bag before Christmas!

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