The Cheetahs scored nine tries to claim a runaway 61-28 bonus-point win over Zebre in Bloemfontein on Saturday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
Riding a wave of confidence, the Cheetahs came into this clash in search of a fifth win of the season, a goal they achieved in a fast-paced, yet one-sided encounter.
The teams traded quickfire tries in a blistering start to the game. Man of the moment Rabz Maxwane split the defence in the second minute to score his 10th Pro14 try of the season, but Zebre hit back immediately through wing Paula Balekana and took the lead after Carlo Canna’s successful conversion.
The hosts then landed triple blows as Malcolm Jaer, Sintu Manjezi and Abongile Nonkontwana all crashed over to secure the four-try bonus point and push the Cheetahs out to a 26-7 half-time lead.
The second half was a try fest as both sides adopted a bold approach. After prop Ox Nche powered over the line for the Cheetahs’ fifth effort, the visitors found their second wind and launched a mini-comeback, scoring two tries that reduced the deficit to 12. The lapse in concentration in the lead-up to Zebre’s tries will have left coach Franco Smith none too pleased, but at least it didn’t cost them in this game.
The Cheetahs outscored Zebre four tries to one in the last quarter to seal the win. Replacement scrumhalf Shaun Venter bagged a brace, while Junior Pokomela and Benhard Janse van Rensburg also added their names to the scoresheet.
Despite the heavy defeat, Zebre had something to celebrate when captain George Biagi dotted down to score in his 100th game for the club.
Cheetahs – Tries: Rabz Maxwane, Malcolm Jaer, Sintu Manjezi, Abongile Nonkontwana, Ox Nche, Shaun Venter (2), Junior Pokomela, Benhard Janse van Rensburg. Conversions: Tian Schoeman (8).
Zebre – Tries: Paula Balekana, Johan Meyer, Apisai Tauyavuca, George Biagi. Conversion: Carlo Canna (4).
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 Gerhard Olivier, 7 Abongile Nonkontwana, 6 Junior Pokomela, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Sintu Manjezi, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Ox Nche.
Subs: 16 Reinach Venter, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Luan de Bruin, 19 Justin Basson, 20 JP du Preez, 21 Niell Jordaan, 22 Shaun Venter, 23 Louis Fouché.
Zebre – 15 Francois Brummer, 14 Paula Balekana, 13 James Elliott, 12 Tommaso Boni, 11 Gabriele di Guilio, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Joshua Renton, 8 Giovanni Licata, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Iacopo Bianchi, 5 George Biagi (c), 4 Samuele Ortis, 3 Eduardo Bello, 2 Luhandré Luus, 1 Daniele Rimpelli.
Subs: 16 Massimo Ceciliani, 17 Danilo Fischetti, 18 Dario Chistolini, 19 Apisai Tauyavuca. 20 James Brown, 21 Riccardo Raffaele, 22 Maicol Azzolini, 23 Giovanbattista Venditti.
Photo: Johan Pretorius/Gallo Images