The Cheetahs scored six tries to beat the Vodacom Bulls 42-29 at Loftus on Saturday. SIMON BORCHARDT reports.
It was only their second Super Rugby win at Loftus and Franco Smith's first taste of success as head coach.
The Bulls, meanwhile, finish the season with five consecutive defeats, a run that's likely to cost Frans Ludeke his job as head coach, although he is line to become director of rugby.
Both teams adopted an expansive, ball-in-hand approach for this dead-rubber fixture, turning down several shots at goal in order to push for the try. And both teams were guilty of some poor defence, with the Bulls missing 24 tackles and the Cheetahs 30.
It was the Bulls who opened the scoring in the fifth minute after they had kicked a penalty to the corner and set up a lineout driving maul, which was stopped just short of the tryline. They then went wide to Jesse Kriel, who juggled the final pass before diving over.
But it didn't take long for the Cheetahs to hit back, with a long pass from Willie le Roux taking out two defenders and putting Niell Jordaan away in the corner.
Jordaan came close to getting a second try in the same corner a few minutes later, but the referee was playing advantage and the Cheetahs kicked for touch. They won the lineout and set up the driving maul, from which Henco Venter scored.
The Cheetahs then lost Carl Wegner to a nasty dislocated hip injury, before Jacques-Louis Potgieter slotted a penalty goal.
The visitors, though, continued to kick penalties to the corner and it paid off when Sarel Pretorius ran cross-field from the lineout and Clayton Blommetjies cut back in on the angle to score.
The Cheetahs then secured the bonus point after the half-time hooter when Pretorius darted over to make it 28-10.
They added to their tally 10 minutes into the second half when Coenie van Wyk broke away into Bulls territory, and Steven Sykes took advantage of some poor defence to score.
The Bulls finally stopped the rot when Kriel bounced off Van Wyk and put Francois Hougaard away for a try, and when Pierre Spies crashed over in the 70th minute, the deficit was reduced to 11.
But the Cheetahs put the result beyond doubt when Rayno Benjamin scored their sixth try, with Hougaard getting his second, and the Bulls' fourth, with two minutes remaining.
Bulls – Tries: Jesse Kriel, Francois Hougaard (2), Pierre Spies. Conversions: Jacques-Louis Potgieter (2), Tian Schoeman. Penalty: Potgieter.
Cheetahs – Tries: Niell Jordaan, Henco Venter, Clayton Blommetjies, Sarel Pretorius, Steven Sykes, Rayno Benjamin. Conversions: Niel Marais (6).
Bulls – 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Francois Hougaard, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Travis Ismaiel, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Pierre Spies (c), 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Arno Botha, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Morné Mellett.
Subs: 16 Callie Visagie, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, 19 Roelof Smit, 20 Bjorn Basson, 21 Tian Schoeman, 22 Jurgen Visser, 23 Werner Kruger.
Cheetahs – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Clayton Blommetjies, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Rayno Benjamin, 11 Sergeal Petersen, 10 Niel Marais, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Henco Venter, 6 Boom Prinsloo, 5 Francois Uys (c), 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Maks van Dyk, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 BG Uys.
Subs: 16 Elandré Huggett, 17 Danie Mienie, 18 Ewald van der Westhuizen, 19 Steven Sykes, 20 Gerhard Olivier, 21 Oupa Mohoje, 22 Renier Botha, 23 Coenie van Wyk.
Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images