The Cheetahs scored five tries to beat the Stormers 35-22 in Bloemfontein on Saturday, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
After last weekend's low-quality local derbies, and the Sharks' poor performance against the Highlanders on Friday night, this was a game South African rugby desperately needed. The competition's two bottom-placed teams showed a willingness to do more than just kick the leather off the ball and the result was a contest that was fun to watch.
The Stormers showed their attacking intent in the third minute, when they sent the ball wide from inside their 22 to debutant wing Devon Williams, who kicked ahead. Raymond Rhule was carried over his tryline and from the 5m scrum, the visitors first went to Juan de Jongh, before Nizaam Carr scored a second-phase try under the posts. Grant kicked the conversion and then added a penalty.
But the Cheetahs hit back with two tries in quick succession. First, after a sustained attack that began with Jaco Taute's clearance kick being charged down, Willie le Roux's left-footed cross-kick found Hennie Daniller on the right touchline. Then another clever kick from Le Roux, one he collected himself, launched an attack that finished with Heinrich Brüssow putting Rayno Benjamin away.
Elgar Watts missed both conversions, but kicked a penalty, which came from a Stormers scrum, to give his side the lead.
That was extended to 10 points when, after a good break from Benjamin, Le Roux threw a dummy and went through a gap between two forwards to score. By half-time, the Stormers had missed 15 tackles.
Grant missed a penalty early in the second half, before a strong run from Deon Fourie ended with a knock-on. Watts then missed another penalty before slotting a simpler one to make it 23-10.
De Jongh crossed the line at the end of the third quarter only for TV replays to show that Duane Vermeulen had obstructed Francois Uys. But the Stormers did get over two minutes later, when they went wide from a scrum on halfway and good work from Jean de Villiers put Williams away for his first Super Rugby try. Grant, though, missed the important conversion to leave the deficit at eight.
The Cheetahs then struck the killer blow with 10 minutes to go. After a break by De Jongh and burst by Schalk Burger had got the Stormers into the opposition 22, Brüssow knocked the ball back and the hosts sent it wide to Cornal Hendricks, who kicked ahead and regathered to score a long-range bonus-point try.
Trevor Nyakane then barged over for another try, before De Villiers scored a consolation one for the visitors.
Cheetahs – Tries: Hennie Daniller, Rayno Benjamin, Willie le Roux, Cornal Hendricks, Trevor Nyakane. Conversions: Elgar Watts (2). Penalties: Watts (2).
Stormers – Tries: Nizaam Carr, Devon Williams, Jean de Villiers. Conversions: Peter Grant, Kurt Coleman. Penalty: Grant.
Cheetahs – 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Raymond Rhule, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Rayno Benjamin, 11 Willie le Roux, 10 Elgar Watts, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Boom Prinsloo, 7 Jean Cook, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Maks van Dyk, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Sub: 16 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Rossouw de Klerk, 19 Waltie Vermeulen, 20 Teboho Mohoje, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Riaan Smith, 23 Cornal Hendricks.
Stormers – 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Damian de Allende, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Devon Williams, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Michael Rhodes, 4 Ruan Botha, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 Oliver Kebble, 18 Brok Harris, 19 Jurie van Vuuren, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Kobus van Wyk.
LEATHERMAN SA PLAYER OF THE MATCH
Willie le Roux's out-of-hand kicking skills resulted in the Cheetahs' first two tries and he scored their third. The winger also ran good lines, attacked the space, and kicked well for territory.
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Photo: Johan Pretorius/Gallo Images