The Cheetahs beat the Bulls 15-9 on Friday to record their first-ever win over the Pretoria franchise in Vodacom Super Rugby, reports JON CARDINELLI.
The wet conditions in Bloemfontein forced both sides to play conservatively, and against all expectations, it was the Cheetahs who adjusted accordingly.
Flyhalf Johan Goosen was in outstanding touch, nailing a drop goal and three penalties in the first half alone. His accurate tactical kicking marshalled the Cheetahs into the right areas of the field and ultimately pressured the Bulls into mistakes.
Willie le Roux was another standout player for the hosts, producing an atypical yet invaluable performance.
Springbok supporters will remember Le Roux's Man of the Match effort at Murrayfield last year, where his courage under the high ball and exemplary kicking went a long way towards securing the result.
These were the skills that came to the fore in a rain-affected match against the Bulls on Friday. Le Roux's left boot gained the Cheetahs valuable ground, and he was secure under the high ball.
The Cheetahs led 12-3 at the break, and might have enjoyed a greater advantage had they taken all their chances. Nevertheless, they were by far the better of the two sides.
The Bulls pack battled in the conditions and halfbacks Francois Hougaard and Louis Fouché were equally poor.
Fouché was guilty of sending a couple of kickoffs directly into touch and pushing two penalty attempts wide. It wasn't surprising to see coach Frans Ludeke replacing Fouché with Handré Pollard in just the 46th minute.
This was also the moment when Ludeke deployed Bok lock Victor Matfield from the bench. This appearance marked Matfield's 126th in Super Rugby, the most by any South African in history.
But as was the case in last week's clash against the Sharks, Matfield entered the fray when the Bulls were well behind on the scoreboard. The Bulls improved in the second half, but it was too much to ask for Matfield to inspire a victory.
Goosen slotted a penalty in the 60th minute to restore the Cheetahs' nine-point lead. Pollard kicked a penalty in the 79th minute, but this only served to earn the Bulls a losing bonus point.
The result marks the Bulls' second consecutive defeat and is a big setback in the context of their play-off ambitions. Conversely, the Cheetahs will now travel Down Under with some confidence and momentum.
Cheetahs – Penalties: Johan Goosen (4). Drop goal: Goosen.
Bulls – Penalties: Louis Fouché, Handré Pollard (2).
Cheetahs – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Phillip van der Walt, 7 Lappies Labuschagné, 6 Boom Prinsloo, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Subs: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Maks van Dyk, 19 Rynard Landman, 20 Jean Cook, 21 Sarel Pretorius, 22 Elgar Watts, 23 Hennie Daniller.
Bulls – 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Louis Fouché, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Jacques Engelbrecht, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Jono Ross, 5 Flip van der Merwe (c), 4 Grant Hattingh, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling.
Subs: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Victor Matfield, 20 Wian Liebenberg, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Ulrich Beyers.
Photo: Gerhard Steenkamp/BackpagePix