The Free State Cheetahs claimed a 38-33 bonus-point win against Western Province on Saturday to finish at the top of the Currie Cup standings. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The result will see the Cheetahs hosting a semi-final – and possibly the Currie Cup final – in Bloemfontein. WP – who were in front for most of this contest – will wait on the result of the final round-robin match. If the Sharks beat the Vodacom Blue Bulls, they will move up to fourth in the standings and dash WP’s playoff hopes.
SP Marais slotted four penalties in the first quarter to provide his team with a platform. When Wilco Louw crossed the line in the 24th minute, WP appeared to be on course for a big win.
The Cheetahs hit back immediately through William Small-Smith. WP finished the half strongly, though, with Damian Willemse setting Dillyn Leyds up for a try. The visitors went in to the break with a 26-12 lead.
Scarra Ntubeni collected a well-directed crosskick by Marais after half time to increase his side’s lead. Free State stayed in the contest, though, and continued to score at the other end of the park.
Tian Meyer and Darren Adonis punished some poor WP defence to boost the hosts’ try tally to four. The latter try earned Free State a bonus point, and secured the Cheetahs’ place in the final four.
Ox Nche’s try and Tian Schoeman’s conversion allowed the hosts to level the scores. Suddenly the Cheetahs, who had been behind for the entire contest, were in sight of a victory.
Jasper Wiese crashed over in the 73rd minute to give the Cheetahs the advantage. From there, the hosts hung on for an important win.
Free State Cheetahs – Tries: William Small-Smith, Joseph Dweba, Tian Meyer, Darren Adonis. Ox Nche, Jasper Wiese. Conversions: Tian Schoeman (4).
Western Province – Tries: Wilco Louw, Dillyn Leyds, Scarra Ntubeni. Conversions: SP Marais (3). Penalties: Marais (4)
Free State Cheetahs –15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Darren Adonis, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 William Small-Smith, 11 Tian Meyer (c), 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Henco Venter, 7 Abongile Nonkontwana, 6 Junior Pokomela, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Sitnu Manjesi, 3 Boan Venter, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Subs: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Aranos Coetzee, 19 JP du Preez, 20 Gerhard Olivier, 21 Jasper Wiese, 22 Dian Badenhorst/Dries Swanepoel, 23 Louis Fouche.
Western Province – 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 SP Marais, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Justin Phillips, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 JD Schickerling, 6 Ernst van Rhyn, 5 Chris van Zyl, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Corne Fourie.
Subs: 16 Chad Solomon, 17 Kwenzo Blose, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Nama Xaba, 20 Juan Augustus, 21 Paul de Wet, 22 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 23 Seabelo Senatla.
Photo: Frikkie Kapp/BackpagePix