The Invitational XV put six tries past the Cheetahs to claim a stunning 43-35 upset victory in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
Matchflow: The game was, for the most part, played as one would expect from an exhibition match, with both teams showing no fear in giving the ball some air.
When Cheetahs flyhalf Brandon Thomson scored his first try for the side in the opening of minutes, it looked as though they were in for a comfortable afternoon.
However, nobody told the Invitational XV that. Despite only being formed and training together under Ricardo Loubscher for a couple of days, they actually looked the more cohesive unit, taking a surprise lead at half time and, deservedly, the win.
The Cheetahs did have the better of the territory for most of the match, but looked every bit as rusty as one would expect from a team that has not played together since the Preparation Series.
A brace from hooker Marnus van der Merwe, to go with an excellent counter-attacking score from Leolin Zas, had the Invitational XV going into the break 22-21 ahead.
The visitors took this momentum into the second half as Jamba Ulengo crashed his way over, before Shayne Bolton made an excellent linebreak and raced through for the team’s fifth try to extend their lead to 15 points.
Unfortunately, Cheetahs prop Conraad van Vuuren took the competitive element of the match over the top and was rightfully shown a red card for a dangerous no-arms cleanout which resulted in Roelof Smit being stretchered off the field.
The Cheetahs did manage to score a couple of tries through hooker Louis van der Westhuizen and Thomson’s second, but it was in vain as Richard Kriel raced through to put the cherry on the top of a surprise result.
Bok watch: The couple of Springbok hopefuls involved in the friendly, Frans Steyn and Rosko Specman, both had mixed outings for the Cheetahs.
Steyn started the match well and kicked excellently out of hand. He also ran a good dummy line in the buildup to Thomson’s first try. However, he did look rusty, like most of his teammates, and at times shoveled on poor passes, one of which resulted in an Invitational XV try.
Specman, meanwhile, looked the better of the two. He would have wanted more opportunities in the first half, but still managed to put in some big hits on defence, including stopping Ulengo in his tracks. When he did get on the ball in the second half, he looked like the most dangerous Cheetahs player on attack.
Best of the rest: Ultimately, the franchises would have been the happiest coming out of this game as they were some excellent performances from players who were in desperate need of game time.
Lions duo Dillon Smit and Roelof Smit were both excellent for the Invitational XV. Dillon Smit turned in a proper general’s performance, kicking accurately from the base and giving his team good service. Roelof Smit looked like the player who was called up by the Springboks a few years ago and terriorised the Cheetahs at the breakdown.
Also impressive for the Invitational XV were the centre pair of Western Province’s Cornel Smit and Shimlas’ Shayne Bolton, who carried strongly on the gainline and gave the team excellent go-forward ball. Eastern Province flyhalf Inny Radebe kicked well at goal and completed a good 79 minutes, combining well with his outside backs.
Cheetahs – Tries: Brandon Thomson (2), Jacques Rudolph, Dries Swanepoel, Louis van der Westhuizen. Conversions: Ruan Pienaar (2), Frans Steyn.
Toyota Invitational – Tries: Marnus van der Merwe (2), Leolin Zas, Jamba Ulengo, Shayne Bolton, Richard Kriel. Conversions: Inny Radebe (4). Penalty: Radebe.
Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Craig Barry, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Brandon Thomson, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Jeandre Rudolph, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Andisa Ntsila, 5 Rynier Bernardo, 4 Victor Sekekete, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Wilmar Arnoldi, 1 Cameron Dawson.
Subs: 16 Louis van der Westhuizen, 17 Schalk Ferreira, 18 Conraad van Vuuren, 19 Jacques Potgieter, 20 Aidon Davis, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Howard Mnisi, 23 Duncan Saal, 24 Chris Massyn, 25 Alulutho Tshakweni.
Toyota Invitational – 15 Richard Kriel (Bulls), 14 Jamba Ulengo (Lions), 13 Cornel Smit (Stormers), 12 Shayne Bolton (Shimlas), 11 Leolin Zas (Stormers), 10 Inny Radebe (EP), 9 Dillon Smit (Lions), 8 WJ Steenkamp (Bulls), 7 Johan du Toit (c, Stormers), 6 Roelof Smit (Lions), 5 Jean Droste (Lions), 4 Reinier Viljoen (Shimlas), 3 Michaeal Kumbirai (Sharks), 2 Marnus van der Merwe (Lions), 1 Khwezi Mona (Sharks).
Subs: 16 Dan Jooste (Sharks), 17 Kwenzo Blose (Stormers), 18 Sazi Sandi (Stormers), 19 Derik Pretorius (CUT), 20 Ruhan Straeuli (Lions), 21 Keagan Johannes (Bulls), 22 JP Duvenhage (Shimlas), 23 Tristan Leyds (Stormers), 24 Jason Alexander (Stormers), 25 Mihlali Mosi (Madibaz), 26 Cohen Jasper (CUT).