Luan de Bruin scored an 86th-minute try as the Cheetahs secured a dramatic 24-17 win over the Kings in Port Elizabeth on Friday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
This was a scrappy affair for 70 minutes, but the game burst to life in the last 10 minutes of normal time, with the Cheetahs ultimately prevailing well into stoppage time.
De Bruin went from villain to hero. Having come on as a replacement, it was his infringement that led to a penalty try in the 73rd minute that saw the Kings draw level. But the prop made amends when he returned from the sin bin and barged over for the match-winning try.
The result sees the Cheetahs maintain their perfect record against the Kings in the Pro14, having also won the previous three fixtures.
Bar an exciting opening 10 minutes, and the stoppage-time drama, it was a poor game all round, as neither side played with any conviction. The Cheetahs made all the attacking plays in the first half, but spurned several scoring opportunities, while the Kings made one handling error after another.
The Cheetahs started brightly when a turnover in possession deep in their own half saw wing Sibahle Maxwane launch a scintillating counter-attack. There was some lovely interplay between backs and forwards, but the Kings tracked back well to repel the initial onslaught on their line.
But there was no denying the Cheetahs and their talisman Maxwane a second time. With the visitors probing again, the Kings were caught short on numbers on the outside and Tian Schoeman exploited the overlap beautifully when he released a pass in the tackle to send Maxwane over for a converted try.
The remainder of the half was a combination of basic errors and fruitless kicking, with the only other highlights being a yellow card for Cheetahs captain Tian Meyer and a try-saving turnover by Kings flank CJ Velleman right on his own line.
The Kings made a courageous start in the second half as fullback Masixole Banda linked up with his flyhalf Ntabeni Dukisa for a match-levelling try.
But the Cheetahs immediately responded to regain the lead when, after a stifled 12-phase attack, Ox Nche stormed past three defenders and popped a pass to Junior Pokomela, who scored his side’s second converted try.
Banda and Benhard Janse van Rensburg traded penalties, but there were to be no more points scored until the 73rd minute.
The Kings turned down two kickable penalties and the decision was vindicated when the forwards drove over the line. De Bruin was forced to illegally collapse the maul, leaving referee Quinton Immelman with no choice but to award the penalty try and show a yellow card.
The Cheetahs would go a similar route as two consecutive penalties provided them with the perfect platform from which to attack. And they took the opportunity as De Bruin snatched victory.
Kings – Tries: Ntabeni Dukisa, penalty try. Conversion: Masixole Banda. Penalty: Banda.
Cheetahs – Tries: Sibahle Maxwane, Junior Pokomela, Luan de Bruin. Conversions: Tian Schoeman (3). Penalty: Benhard Janse van Rensburg.
Kings – 15 Masixole Banda, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Tertius Kruger, 12 Berton Klaasen, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Ntabeni Dukisa 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Ruaan Lerm, 7 Henry Brown, 6 CJ Velleman, 5 John-Charles Astle (c), 4 Stephan Greeff, 3 Nicolaas Oosthuizen, 2 Michael Willemse, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Subs: 16 Alandre van Rooyen, 17 Lumpumlo Mguca, 18 Rossouw de Klerk, 19 Andries van Schalkwyk, 20 Andisa Ntsila, 21 Sarel Pretorius, 22 Martin du Toit, 23 Harlon Klaasen.
Cheetahs – 15 Malcolm Jaer, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 Nico Lee, 11 Rabz Maxwane, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Tian Meyer (c), 8 Daniel Maartens, 7 Junior Pokomela, 6 Gerhard Olivier, 5 JP du Preez, 4 Justin Basson, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Ox Nche.
Subs: 16 Marnus van der Merwe/Reinach Venter, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Luan de Bruin, 19 Sintu Manjezi, 20 Walt Steenkamp, 21 Abongile Nonkontwana, 22 Shaun Venter, 23 Louis Fouché.
Photo: Gallo Images