Province survive Cheetahs fightback

Western Province flyhalf Tim Swiel slotted an 81st-minute penalty to snatch a thrilling 31-29 victory over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.

Coming into this penultimate round-robin fixture, Western Province had slipped to third on the Currie Cup standings after the Lions overcame the Pumas earlier in the day.

For WP, it heightened the importance of victory to remain in line for a home semi-final at Newlands, while the Cheetahs knew that defeat would end their playoff hopes.

Keeping all this in mind, it looked as if WP were headed for a comfortable victory when they led 23-9 after 55 minutes, but then came a stunning fightback from the Cheetahs.

Two quickfire tries and the superb goal-kicking of Frans Steyn reignited the home team’s never-say-die spirit, and heading into the dramatic final minutes, the Free State side held a one-point lead.

But throughout this game, Swiel had kicked superbly at goal, and when it mattered most he stepped up to slot an angled penalty after Province had won an all-important scrum penalty.

The first half in particular had been a tense and physical affair, but it was also blighted by a slew of penalties as Swiel successfully converted four shots at goal for WP to take a 12-9 lead.

Once again, it was also the booming boot of Steyn that kept the Cheetahs in the game as he slotted two long-range place-kicks, but Province would strike a crucial blow just before the break.

Yet another penalty was this time kicked to the corner, and from a well-worked lineout drive, Jaco Coetzee burst over to score and hand the visitors a handy eight-point lead at the break.

In the opening exchanges of the second half, frustration and errors continued to add up from the Cheetahs, while two more penalties were in kicking range for Swiel.

However, there was finally a shot of life for the hosts when hooker Wilmar Arnoldi powered over from the back of a maul after a period of extended pressure. That cut the deficit to just seven points.

And then, just minutes later, speedster Rosko Specman pounced to score under the posts, and in the blink of an eye, the scores were drawn level heading into the final quarter.

Steyn would next slot a penalty to hand the Cheetahs the lead for the first time in the game, but soon after, a brain fade from fullback Clayton Blommetjies saw him concede an off-the-ball penalty.

WP kicked to the corner and scored through Bongi Mbonambi as they again turned to their reliable lineout drive.

The drama was far from over, though, as the Cheetahs won a scrum penalty against the feed, with Steyn slotting his fifth penalty to restore a narrow lead. That could have been the match-winner, but it was Swiel who would have the final say.

Cheetahs – Tries: Wilmar Arnoldi, Rosko Specman. Conversions: Frans Steyn (2). Penalties: Steyn (5).
WP – Tries: Jaco Coetzee, Bongi Mbonambi. Penalties: Swiel (7).

Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Rhyno Smith, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Reinhardt Fortuin, 9 Ruben de Haas, 8 Jeandre Rudolph, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Andisa Ntsila, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Carl Wegner (c), 3 Khutha Mchunu, 2 Wilmar Arnoldi, 1 Boan Venter.
Subs: 16 Marnus van der Merwe, 17 Erich de Jager, 18 Conraad van Vuuren, 19 Victor Sekekete, 20 Chris Massyn, 21 George Cronje,  22 Howard Mnisi, 23 Tian Meyer.

WP – 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Dan du Plessis, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Angelo Davids, 10 Tim Swiel, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Johan du Toit, 6 Jaco Coetzee, 5 David Meihuizen, 4 JD Schickerling, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain).
Subs (from): 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Kwenzo Blose, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 Marcel Theunissen, 21 Paul de Wet, 22 Ruhan Nel, 23 Tristan Leyds, 24 Leon Lyons, 25 Chad Solomon, 26 Ben-Jason Dixon.

Photo: Gallo Images

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Craig Lewis