- Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie hailed his flyhalf Siya Masuku for his steel and execution in landing the last-gasp penalty that saw them reach the playoffs for the Challenge Cup.
- He noted that Masuku had practised a lot during the week and was duly rewarded at the most opportune time possible.
- Fourie didn't deny that the overall performance in the win over Pau was poor, but the result was all that mattered.
A chuckling Hawies Fourie summarily forgave his Cheetahs pivot Siya Masuku after the latter clinched the franchise passage into the European Challenge Cup playoffs with a magnificent penalty after the hooter for the final whistle had gone.
The 26-year-old No 10, who had endured a difficult evening in missing a straightforward attempt at goal and several kicks to touch, showed the steel that's marked him as a gifted player in producing a pure, accurate strike from over 45 metres out (at an angle to boot too) previously thought to be only Frans Steyn's forte in the side.
"Not any kicker can put a kick away like that one," said Fourie after the Free Staters' 9-6 victory over Pau in Parma on Sunday.
"Siya put in a lot of time with Albert Keuris, our kicking coach, last week. That was definitely a factor and laudable on his side,"
Yet training drills can't always be replicated in a match situation, as Masuku would find out.
"He was struggling when we were playing from right to left, but kicked really well in the other direction. I was kicking the balls back from behind the post, so I was very pleased that we were playing towards the right-hand end in the second half because I'd seen beforehand that Siya was comfortable kicking to that side.
"That gave me hope."
With that knowledge in his mind, Fourie was probably more confident of Masuku slotting the game-clincher than other observers might have been.
"It was quite a distance away and the ball was quite damp from the dew. It was definitely a bit heavier," he said.
"But, yes, that was a sweet strike. That's why practised it and put in the hours. That's the reward you get for that dedication. I just congratulated him and thanked him for that.
"There were some mistakes, but he's definitely forgiven."
While the elation afterwards was fully justified for a group of men who've endured so many hardships over the past three years, Fourie admitted that the overall performance was blunt enough to have made him a bit nervous at the death.
"Those last 15 minutes were pretty nerve-wracking," he said.
"We made a lot of mistakes, particularly in that period. But the one thing about this team is that they don't give up, they're really resilient. That pulled us through, it wasn't pretty to watch for anyone.
"But the result is all that matters. We've achieved our objective of reaching the last 16."