Cape Town - Fred Zeilinga kicked 22 points to help the Free State Cheetahs down Western Province 32-25 (half-time 13-18) in a Currie Cup Premier Division match at Newlands in Cape Town on Friday.
The former Sharks pivot slotted six penalties and two conversions for a faultless evening with the boot and hand the men from Bloemfontein their third consecutive victory and move to within one point of the Sharks at the top of the log.
The home side looked nervous, with their scrum under pressure while hooker Scarra Ntubeni struggled to find his lineout jumpers. Had it not been for the brilliance inside centre Huw Jones, Western Province might have been on the end of another heavy defeat.
The Scotland International scored the opening try of the match, running a good line to score under the poles after scrumhalf Jano Vermaak, had broken past a few defenders off the back of a lineout. Flyhalf Brandon Thomson converted the score to give the home side a 10-point lead after the young pivot had opened the scoring with a penalty.
But the visitors struck back with two penalties by Zeilinga before debutante centre, Nico Lee, broke the Province defense with an excellent line run to score next to the sticks. Zeilinga's conversions left the Free Staters three points in front.
But another brilliant piece of rugby thinking by Jones led to WP's second try by right wing Kobus van Wyk. Province turned the ball over at ruck-time and Jones spotted space down the short side and fed Van Wyk, who dashed down the touchline to score. Thomson was unable to convert from a tight angle to leave the hosts five points to the good.
But the Free State brains trust replaced their entire front row at the break and the change proved dividends as the visiting scrum took ascendancy. Another excellent break by Lee from loose play led to scrumhalf Tian Meyer crashing over the line for the visitor's second try and a slender two-point advantage as Zeilinga converted.
Zeilinga added another two penalties to extend their lead to eight points but replacement scrumhalf, Godlen Masimla, picked up off the base of a ruck, sniping to the open side and feeding left wing Leolin Zass who crashed over the line to bring Province to within one point with replacement flyhalf, Robert du Preez converting.
But the Cheetahs made sure of their victory, and four log points as Zeilinga slotted another two penalty goals in the final 10 minutes. Province, who were flattened by the Blue Bulls in Pretoria a fortnight ago, walked away from the match with a losing bonus-point for finishing within seven points.
Tries: Jones, Van Wyk, Zas
Conversions: Thomson, Du Preez
Penalties: Thomson (2)
Free State Cheetahs
Tries: Lee, Meyer
Conversions: Zeilinga (2)
Penalties: Zeilinga (6)
15 Jaco Taute, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Huw Jones, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Brandon Thomson, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Kobus van Dyk, 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, 5 Chris van Zyl (captain), 4 Jan de Klerk, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Alistair Vermaak
Replacements: 16 Martin Ferreira, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 JP Smith, 19 Jurie van Vuuren, 20 Godlen Masimla, 21 Robert du Preez, 22 Cheslin Kolbe.
15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Ryno Benjamin, 13 Nico Lee, 12 William Small-Smith, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Tian Meyer (captain), 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Jacques du Toit, 1 Charles Marais
Replacements: 16 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Justin Basson, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Niel Marais, 23 Michael van der Spuy.