The Free State Cheetahs produced a superior first-half performance to down the Golden Lions 31-28 in the Currie Cup final in Bloemfontein on Saturday, writes JON CARDINELLI.The Cheetahs came into this clash with the correct mindset. They placed an emphasis on the set piece and – with Springbok veteran Ruan Pienaar calling the shots at No 9 – sought to play much of the contest as possible deep inside Lions territory.
The Lions, by contrast, attempted to attack from all parts of the field. These tactics served them well in the early stages of the tournament but backfired in the decider staged in Bloemfontein.
The Lions failed to make their few opportunities count. At the other end of the park, the Cheetahs were more clinical.
The hosts scored four tries in the first half. Three of those came off the back of a dominant lineout.
Pienaar was in excellent form with the boot. The former Bok scrumhalf nailed four conversions and a penalty to ensure that the Cheetahs went into the break with a commanding 31-7 lead.
#CurrieCup – HALFTIME:
Free State 31-7 Golden Lions
The Cheetahs have run in four tries and they go into the interval with a big lead at home.
— SuperSport (@SuperSportTV) September 7, 2019
The Lions had their chances to hit back. The Cheetahs defence, however, was equal to the task in the early stages of the second stanza.
Sintu Majezi was shown a yellow card in the 66th minute for a cynical offence close to the Cheetahs’ tryline. The Lions went on to score two converted tries while the Cheetahs lock was in the sin bin.
James Venter claimed a second try on the stroke of full time, but it was too little to late. The damage was done in the early stages of the contest and the Cheetahs deserved to come away with the win and title.
Cheetahs – Tries: Joseph Dweba, William Small-Smith, Clayton Blommetjies, Walt Steenkamp. Conversions: Ruan Pienaar (4). Penalty: Pienaar.
Lions – Tries: Wandisile Simelane, Dillon Smit, James Venter (2). Conversions: Shaun Reynolds (4).
Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 Dries Swanepoel, 11 Tian Meyer (c), 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Henco Venter, 7 Gerhard Olivier, 6 Junior Pokomela, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Sintu Manjezi, 3 Erich de Jager, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Ox Nche.
Subs: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Reinach Venter, 19 JP du Preez, 20 Abongile Nonkontwana, 21 Jasper Wiese, 22 Darren Adonis, 23 Louis Fouche.
Lions – 15 Tyrone Green, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Duncan Matthews, 11 Stean Pienaar, 10 Shaun Reynolds, 9 Ross Cronje (c), 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Pieter Jansen, 1 Dylan Smith.
Subs: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Nathan McBeth, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 20 Len Massyn, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Jan-Louis la Grange 23 James Venter.
Photo: Christiaan Kotze/BackpagePix