The Cheetahs scored 15 points in the last 12 minutes to defeat the Kings 21-20 in Port Elizabeth on Friday, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
Trailing 20-6, centre Clinton Swart and wing Raymond Rhule scored in quick succession to make it a two-point game. Replacement flyhalf Niel Marais, who converted Rhule’s effort, then stepped up to kick the all-important penalty in the 75th minute to sink the Kings.
In a breathless and emotionally-loaded encounter, the Kings and Cheetahs contributed to make their last appearance in Super Rugby a memorable occasion.
In the end, it was the visitors who chalked up their fourth win of the season, but the Kings bowed out of the competition on the back of their most successful campaign, which heralded six victories, two more than the Bulls and Cheetahs.
In terms of territory, possession and chances created, it was a closely contested game. But after going behind early on, the Kings overturned the deficit before repelling the Cheetahs’ attack with excellent defensive work throughout the 80 minutes.
Outgoing Kings flank Chris Cloete conceded two penalties in the first five minutes of the game and it was after his second indiscretion that flyhalf Fred Zeilinga lined up and slotted a penalty to hand the Cheetahs the lead.
At that point, the scrums had gone in favour of the Cheetahs, with the referee policing the set piece accordingly. But when the Kings were suddenly awarded a scrum penalty, they exited their half with ease and from the resultant lineout, fullback Malcolm Jaer showed a great turn of speed with a run through the middle. He was brought down, but the hosts were playing under an advantage and captain Lionel Cronjé kicked for touch.
They moved the ball from side to side and it resulted in a try for Makazole Mapimpi. The winger flirted with the touchline, but did well to stay in the field of play and slid over in the corner, despite drawing the attention of three Cheetahs tacklers. The play was referred to the TMO and after numerous replays, Mapimpi was awarded his 11th try of the season.
The adventurous, all-action approach came at a cost for both teams, as the Kings lost Cloete to injury and the Cheetahs were forced to replace scrumhalf Tian Meyer.
The high-octane nature of the match continued regardless and towards the end of the half, wing Wandile Mjekevu extended the Kings’ lead by scoring their second try.
Ill-discipline, especially high tackles, and poor defending continued to hamper the Cheetahs’ chances of a comeback. Lock Giant Mtyanda rounded off a superb team effort for the Kings from a move that originated in their own half. This was followed by a penalty either way as the Kings maintained their 14-point advantage.
But in a surprising shift in momentum, the Cheetahs clawed their way back.
Marais replaced Zeilinga and made an immediate impact. He injected more pace into the attack and it helped them to breach the Kings’ stern defence in the dying moments to erase the deficit and steal the win.
Kings – Tries: Makazole Mapimpi, Wandile Mjekevu, Giant Mtyanda. Conversion: Lionel Cronjé. Penalty Cronjé.
Cheetahs – Tries: Clinton Swart, Raymond Rhule. Conversion: Niel Marais. Penalties: Fred Zeilinga (2), Marais.
Kings – 15 Malcolm Jaer, 14 Wandile Mjekevu, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Luzuko Vulindlu, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Lionel Cronjé (c), 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Andisa Ntsila, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 4 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Michael Willemse, 1 Mzamo Majola.
Subs: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Schalk Ferreira, 18 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 19 Irne Herbst, 20 Thembelani Bholi, 21 Rudi van Rooyen, 22 Masixole Banda, 23 Waylon Murray.
Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Francois Venter (c), 12 Clinton Swart, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Uzair Cassiem, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Ox Nche.
Subs: 16 Reinach Venter, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Armandt Koster, 20 Junior Pokomela, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Ruan van Rensburg, 23 Niel Marais.