Ruan Pienaar and Rhyno Smith combined brilliantly to give the Cheetahs a late 31-30 victory against the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The Kings had this game in the bag. A series of unforced errors by the hosts in the final moments, however, allowed the Cheetahs to work their way upfield and score two converted tries in quick succession.
Smith finished well to score two late tries. Pienaar created the latter score when he spotted Smith on the far side and kicked for his wing to chase. Smith showed exceptional skill to leap for the ball and dot down.
From there, Pienaar held his nerve to slot the winning conversion and deny the Kings their first-ever win against the Cheetahs.
The hosts will be gutted by the result given how well they performed for 70-plus minutes. The forwards were dominant at the collisions and breakdowns while the backs – Stefan Ungerer and Bader Pretorius chief among them – converted scoring chances into points.
Ungerer made some important calls in the first half to keep the pressure on the Cheetahs. Pretorius nailed several goal kicks – and scored a try after yet another turnover – to see the Kings leading 13-0 after 30 minutes.
The Cheetahs hit back via lock Sintu Majezi to trail 13-5 at half time. The Kings continued to assert their physical dominance after the break, though, and their offensive defence yielded a try against the run of play for Ungerer.
The visitors battled to maintain their discipline over the course of the contest. They conceded a series of penalties at the breakdown, and Tian Schoeman was shown a yellow card for cynical play in the first half.
Manjezi scored a second try and then proceeded to concede a soft penalty at the other end. From an ensuing ruck, Ungerer chipped over the defence for his teammates to chase. The Cheetahs failed to secure the ball, and JT Jackson picked up the scraps to boost his side’s lead to 15 points.
The Cheetahs hit back strongly in the closing stages, though. Pienaar made a difference when he was introduced and the forwards enjoyed more success at the set pieces. The finishing by the visitors in the dying moments was outstanding.
Southern Kings – Tries: Bader Pretorius, Stefan Ungerer, JT Jackson. Conversions: Pretorius (3). Penalties: Pretorius (3).
Cheetahs – Tries: Sintu Majezi (2), Wilmar Arnoldi, Rhyno Smith. (2). Conversions: Tian Schoeman, Ruan Pienaar (2).
Southern Kings – 15 Masixole Banda, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Sibusiso Sithole, 12 John-Thomas Jackson, 11 Erich Cronje, 10 Bader Pretorius, 9 Stefan Ungerer (c), 8 Elrigh Louw, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Ruaan Lerm, 5 Aston Fortuin, 4 Jerry Sexton, 3 Rossouw de Klerk, 2 Jacques du Toit, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Subs: 16 Alandre van Rooyen, 17 Xandre Vos, 18 Ignatius Prinsloo, 19 Bobby de Wee, 20 Lusanda Badiyana, 21 Theo Maree, 22 Courtney Winnaar, 23 Andell Loubser.
Cheetahs – 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Clayton Blommetjies, 13 William Small-Smith, 12 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Tian Meyer (c), 8 Gerhard Olivier, 7 Junior Pokomela, 6 Chris Massyn, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Sintu Manjezi, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Boan Venter.
Subs: 16 Wilmar Arnoldi, 17 Erich de Jager, 18 Luan de Bruin, 19 JP du Preez, 20 Aidon Davis; 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 George Whitehead, 23 Chris Smit.
Photo: Michael Sheehan/Gallo Images