Fred Zeilinga scored 22 points to guide Free State to a 32-25 win against WP at Newlands on Friday. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The Cheetahs remain unbeaten in this year's Currie Cup tournament. The result on Friday night saw the Bloemfontein-based side extending their winning run to three matches.
It's fair to say that they owe their most recent win at Newlands to their flyhalf. In a game where forwards and backs on both sides made error after error, in a match where the skills were sorely lacking on attack and defence, Zeilinga stood out with his eight-from-eight goal-kicking effort.
That said, the Cheetahs as a collective did well to fight back after a poor start. They conceded an early try after Huw Jones breached their defence. After 10 minutes, the visitors trailed by 10 points.
Fortunately for the Cheetahs, WP failed to capitalise on that advantage. The hosts made several elementary errors at the kick-offs, scrums and breakdowns, and allowed the Cheetahs back into the game.
Zeilinga stepped up to slot two penalty goals. In the 21st minute, the Cheetahs flyhalf put Nico Lee through a massive gap in the WP defence.
WP fought back to score another try through Kobus van Wyk and go to the break with an 18-13 lead. In the second stanza, however, the Cheetahs began to take control of the game.
Another scything break by Lee set up Cheetahs skipper Tian Meyer for a try in the 43rd minute. Zeilinga added a penalty in the 56th minute to extend the visitors' lead.
On the hour, Zeilinga stepped up to sink a monster of a penalty goal from inside his own half. That three-pointer was massive in the context of the contest, as it handed the Cheetahs a significant eight-point lead.
Leolin Zas scored a try in the 65th minute to give the hosts some hope of victory. Replacement flyhalf Robert du Preez added the extras to reduce the Cheetahs' lead to a single point.
But Zeilinga would have a further influence on proceedings. The Cheetahs flyhalf kicked two more penalties to ensure that the visitors banked a valuable win and four log points.
Western Province – Tries: Huw Jones, Kobus van Wyk, Leolin Zas. Conversions: Brandon Thomson, Robert du Preez. Penalties: Thomson (2).
Free State Cheetahs – Tries: Nico Lee, Tian Meyer. Conversions: Fred Zeilinga (2). Penalties: Zeilinga (6).
Western Province – 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Huw Jones, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Brandon Thomson, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Kobus van Dyk, 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, 5 Chris van Zyl (c), 4 Jan de Klerk, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Alistair Vermaak.
Subs: 16 Martin Ferreira, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 JP Smith, 19 Jurie van Vuuren, 20 Godlen Masimla, 21 Robert du Preez, 22 Cheslin Kolbe.
Free State Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Rayno Benjamin, 13 Nico Lee, 12 William Small-Smith, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Tian Meyer (c), 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Jacques du Toit, 1 Charles Marais.
Subs: 16 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Justin Basson, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Niel Marais.
Photo: Thinus Maritz/Gallo Images