The Free State Cheetahs will stay in the Currie Cup Premier Division after beating the SWD Eagles 36-5 in their promotion-relegation match in Bloemfontein on Tuesday. DYLAN JACK reports.
The Cheetahs suffered an early blow, losing fullback Malcolm Jaer before the match to injury. Tian Schoeman came in for him as a direct replacement. However, that disruption mattered little as the game was as one-sided as you could expect from a Pro14 team against a First Division side.
That is not to say SWD did not give it their all, but they were let down by a horrible start in which they conceded a litany of penalties, allowing the Cheetahs to go 19 points ahead.
The Eagles were on the back foot from the get-go, conceding four penalties in the first 10 minutes, which eventually saw tighthead prop Vuks Sofisa sent to the sin bin. After a plethora of scrum penalties, referee Jaco Peyper was left with no choice but to award a penalty try.
The hosts doubled their lead shortly afterwards through flying wing Rabz Maxwane, before Schoeman finished off a fine attacking move that started inside the Cheetahs half.
Free State should have been further ahead at half-time but a combination of poor finishing and communication, along with some excellent scrambling from the Eagles, kept them to just the three tries.
The visitors came out with renewed energy, showing some fight in the opening 10 minutes of the second half, as they started to string some phases together.
But it was the Cheetahs quality that counted as Rudy Paige sniped round the back of a ruck, releasing the ball to Fouche for the Cheetahs’ fourth try.
The Eagles finally managed a response when a poor pass from Paige was intercepted by centre Vuyo Mbotho, who sprinted away to put his side on the board.
That good work was undone minutes later as William Small-Smith showed his pace to burst through a gap and dive over in the corner.
While the game was wrapped up by then, there was still time for Small-Smith to complete his double after receiving a pass from Paige, who had made another break.
Free State Cheetahs – Tries: Penalty try, Rabz Maxwane, Tian Schoeman, Louis Fouché, William Small-Smith (2). Conversions: Fouché (2).
SWD Eagles – Try: Vuyo Mbotho.
Free State Cheetahs – 15 Tian Schoeman, 14 Ali Mgijima, 13 William Small-Smith, 12 Nico Lee, 11 Rabz Maxwane, 10 Louis Fouché , 9 Tian Meyer (c), 8 Junior Pokomela, 7 Abongile Nonkontwana, 6 Niell Jordaan, 5 Dennis Visser, 4 Justin Basson, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Reinach Venter, 1 Charles Marais.
Subs: 16 Joseph Dweba, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Stephan Malan, 19 Aidon Davis, 20 Daniel Maartens, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Benhard Janse van Rensburg .
SWD Eagles – 15 Marlo Weich, 14 Alshaun Bock, 13 Kirsten Heyns, 12 Tyler Fisher, 11 Adri Jacobs, 10 Divan Nel, 9 Johan Steyn, 8 Wayne Wilschut, 7 Nicolaas Immelman, 6 Janneman Stander, 5 Hannes Janse van Rensburg, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Vuks Sofisa, 2 Jacques Vermaak, 1 Lux Koza.
Subs: 16 Le Roux Baard, 17 Teunis Nieuwoudt, 18 Dewald Dekker, 19 Brendon Esterhuizen, 20 Reinhardt Stears, 21 Vuyo Mbotho, 22 Ganfield May.
Photo: Gerhard Steenkamp/BackpagePix