Cheetahs’ loss favours the Bulls

2013-07-22 00:00

THERE was heartbreak for the Cheetahs but relief for the Bulls as the Super Rugby semi-final line-up was confirmed with the second quarter-final in Canberra yesterday.

The Brumbies only just hung on to beat the Cheetahs 15-13 in a tense, tight quarter-final in Canberra and Jake White’s team will travel to Pretoria to face the Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday evening.

The flourishing Crusaders will travel to Hamilton to play the top-of-the-log, title-holding Chiefs in the earlier semi-final this Saturday.

The Crusaders, the seven-time champions and unquestionably the in-form team in the closing weeks of the competition, thumped the Reds 38-9 in the weekend quarter-final in Christchurch, scoring four tries without response.

The weekend’s results suit the Bulls. The Cheetahs, had they picked up an unexpected win in Canberra, would have met the Chiefs in the semi-finals with the Crusaders travelling to play the Bulls in the other half of the draw.

Certainly the Bulls will prefer hosting the Brumbies rather than the Crusaders, who have flyhalf Dan Carter in sublime form and All Black captain Richie McCaw back in harness.

And the Bulls will now be favoured to host the final at Loftus — if they advance and the Crusaders beat the Chiefs in Hamilton. However, if the exciting Chiefs manage to overcome the controlled, composed Crusaders, the final will be in Hamilton irrespective of what happens in Pretoria.

The Cheetahs’ fairytale season ended agonisingly when flyhalf Riaan Smit’s testing touchline conversion — into a cold, swirling wind — clipped the upright and stayed out. Had he succeeded to level the scores, the game would have entered extra time and the Free Staters, sparked by replacement scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius in the final quarter, would have fancied their chances.

But it was the Brumbies who prevailed as they milked their superior scrum and, helped by some marginal calls by New Zealand referee Glen Jackson, booted five penalties to the Cheetahs’ two well-worked tries by centre Johann Sadie and replacement wing Benjamin.

The Cheetahs forwards, led by Adriaan Strauss and Heinrich Brüssow, were highly effective away from the scrum but the Free Staters conceded penalties and possession and the Brumbies were happy to play a conservative, territory-based game.

Brumbies captain Ben Mowen said he thought his side would lose when Benjamin scored the final try.

“You always worry when a South African guy’s having a kick at goal because they’re usually dead on the money,” Mowen said. “But, fortunately for us, it went our way there.”

A glum Strauss said he was disappointed with the outcome and said his side had been punished for giving away too many penalties.

“But I’m still proud of the guys. We had a much better season this year and that’s something we can definitely build on for the future.

“I was very confident that Riaan would kick the conversion. I thought it was a great kick.”

Centre Ryan Crotty scored twice and Dan Carter blossomed as the Crusaders demolished the Reds 38-9 in Christchurch.

McCaw came off the bench in the final quarter for his first Super Rugby appearance this season after a long sabbatical.

The New Zealand-born Quade Cooper, jeered by the Christchurch crowd with every touch of the ball, scored all the Reds’ points but he was outplayed by Carter.

The Reds’ heavy defeat was a disappointing farewell for coach Ewen McKenzie who is now taking over the Wallabies ahead of the Rugby Championship opener against New Zealand next month.


Brumbies 15 (Christian Leali’ifano 4 penalties; Nic White penalty). Cheetahs 13 (Johann Sadie, Ryno Benjamin tries; Riaan Smit penalty).

Crusaders 38 (Ryan Crotty 2, Dan Carter, Tom Marshall tries. Conversion: Dan Carter 4 penalties, three conversions). Reds 9 (Quade Cooper 3 penalties).

Semi-final line-up on Saturday

(home team first, SA times)

Chiefs v Crusaders — 9.35 am.

Bulls v Brumbies — 5.05 pm.

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