The Cheetahs sent interim coach Franco Smith off on a high with their first-ever win over Munster in a 40-16 bonus-point victory in Bloemfontein on Friday. DYLAN JACK reports.
The game was memorable for a number of reasons for the home side. It was Smith’s final game in charge of the side as Hawies Fourie will take charge from next week onwards. The match was also Ox Nche and Henco Venter’s last game with the Cheetahs as they will soon join the Sharks’ pre-season.
While it looked like nerves and emotions were getting to them in the first half, the Cheetahs responded well in the second period to claim their third successive bonus-point win and keep their unbeaten start to the season.
The hosts did find this game far more of a challenge than their previous two wins over the Glasgow Warriors and Ulster. They found momentum difficult to build in the first half as Munster were distinctly targeting Ruan Pienaar at the breakdown, not giving him any time with ball in hand.
Munster, missing 12 players to the World Cup, also cleverly decided not to play the Cheetahs at their own game, choosing instead to slow the pace of the game down and put a number of kicks in behind the defence.
The Cheetahs took a 12-9 lead into the break thanks to a try each from Nche and Junior Pokomela. Munster stayed in the game as flyhalf Tyler Bleyendaal punished the Cheetahs overeagerness on defence with three penalties.
It was a far better second half from the home side as they showed more patience with their possession and looked far less rushed on attack. Brilliant hands between backs and forwards saw William Small-Smith go over, before a strong effort at the maul allowed Joseph Dweba to score his fourth try of the season.
The game was all but sealed when Rhyno Smith took a quick-tap and sent loose forward Jasper Wiese over from close range, before the fullback extended his record as the competition’s top try scorer just before the fulltime hooter.
Cheetahs – Tries: Ox Nche, Junior Pokomela, William Small-Smith, Joseph Dweba, Jasper Wiese, Rhyno Smith. Conversions: Ruan Pienaar (4), Tian Schoeman.
Munster – Try: Dan Goggin. Conversion: JJ Hanrahan. Penalties: Tyler Bleyendaal (4)
Cheetahs – 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 Louis Fouche, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Ruan Pienaar (c), 8 Henco Venter, 7 Junior Pokomela, 6 Gerhard Olivier, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Sintu Manjezi, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Ox Nche.
Subs: 16 Reinach Venter, 17 Boan Venter, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 JP du Preez, 20 Sias Koen, 21 Jasper Wiese, 22 Tian Meyer, 23 Clayton Blommetjies.
Munster – 15 Mike Haley, 14 Darren Sweetnam, 13 Dan Goggin, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Shane Daly, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Nick McCarthy, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Tommy O’Donnell, 6 Jack O’Donoghue, 5 Billy Holland (c), 4 Fineen Wycherley, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Rhys Marshall, 1 Jeremy Loughman.
Subs: 16 Kevin O’Byrne, 17 James Cronin, 18 Keynan Knox, 19 Darren O’Shea, 20 Gavin Coombes, 21 Alby Mathewson, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Calvin Nash.
Photo: Johan Pretorius/Gallo Image