Wing Rabz Maxwane scored a brace as the Cheetahs beat the Cardiff Blues 21-10 in Bloemfontein on Saturday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
They’ve done it. The Cheetahs have finally ended their wretched winless run by upsetting the Blues in superb fashion. Where had this composed team been during the early rounds and why are they only surfacing seven games into the season?
In the lead-up to this contest, Cheetahs coach Franco Smith reiterated that the two-week break in competition had helped his team’s progress. Judging from this mature and composed performance, it did.
Apart from the scrums, which were a lottery on the day, the Cheetahs had the upper hand in the lineouts, showed greater appreciation of possession and territorial play, and were better disciplined and more clinical in their execution. All in all, the Cheetahs were deserved winners.
In the sweltering heat, Cardiff received the initial kick-off, but had precious little time to adapt to the conditions or to set the pace going forward before the Cheetahs descended on them.
And they soon crumbled under the weight of pressure applied by the hosts. First captain Shaun Venter broke away for the opening try, before the Blues conceded another try as punishment for poor ball protection.
Having just turned over possession, the Blues lost the ball forward and Joseph Dweba was perfectly placed to get possession back for the Cheetahs. The hooker carried the ball up before passing to Maxwane, who collected his own chip through for his first and the Cheetahs’ second effort.
Trailing 14-0 after just 11 minutes and almost zero attacking opportunities, the Cardiff Blues were staring down the barrel. And despite pulling three points back with a penalty, it got worse before the break.
Cardiff were marching towards the tryline with a monstrous maul, but failed to release the ball after the referee had called on them to use it. The ball squirted out to the short side and into the waiting hands of Cheetahs skipper Venter, who drew a defender before freeing up the flying Maxwane down the right-hand touchline. Schoeman slotted the conversion once more to put the hosts 21-3 up.
The second half paled in comparison to the first. In the period straight after half-time, there were no scoring opportunities as the Cheetahs looked content to defend their lead, while the Blues’ attacking aspirations were stifled by series of basic handling errors.
In the last quarter, though, things got a little nervy for the Cheetahs, who are known to concede big leads late in a game.
The Blues got a gift of try when a clearance kick by Schoeman was charged and chased down by replacement lock Samu Manoa. That got the visitors right back into the contest, but in the end, the Cheetahs repelled numerous onslaughts in the dying moments of the match to come away with a crucial victory.
Cheetahs – Tries: Shaun Venter, Rabz Maxwane (2). Conversions: Tian Schoeman (3).
Cardiff Blues – Try: Samu Manoa. Conversion: Steve Shingler. Penalty: Shingler.
Cheetahs – 15 Malcolm Jaer, 14 Rhyno Smith, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 William Small-Smith, 11 Rabz Maxwane, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Shaun Venter (c), 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Junior Pokomela, 6 Gerhard Olivier, 5 JP du Preez, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Ox Nche.
Subs: 16 Reinach Venter, 17 Charles Marais , 18 Erich de Jager, 19 Sinthu Manjezi, 20 Abongile Nonkontwana, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Louis Fouche, 23 Nico Lee.
Cardiff Blues – 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Jason Harries, 13 Garyn Smith, 12 Rey Lee-Lo, 11 Aled Summerhill, 10 Steve Shingler, 9 Lloyd Williams (c), 8 Seb Davies, 7 Olly Robinson, 6 Josh Turnbull, 5 Rory Thornton, 4 George Earle, 3 Scott Andrews, 2 Ethan Lewis, 1 Rhys Gill.
Subs: 16 Liam Belcher, 17 Rhys Carre, 18 Keiron Assiratti, 19 Samu Manoa, 20 Nick Williams, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Dan Fish, 23 Willis Halaholo.
Photo: Johan Pretorius/Gallo Images