The Toyota Cheetahs’ fairytale season came to an agonising end as they lost their maiden Vodacom Super Rugby play-off match against the Brumbies in Canberra Stadium on Sunday morning (SA time).
Despite being outscored by two tries to nil, the Brumbies’ nail-biting 15-13 victory in the second Qualifier in Australia’s capital means they now have to travel to Pretoria to take on the Vodacom Bulls in one of the two semi-finals, on Saturday at Loftus Versfeld.
The first semi-final is an all-New Zealand affair in Hamilton between the defending champion Chiefs and the seven-time champions Crusaders, who were much too strong for the Reds in their one-sided Qualifier on Saturday morning (38-9).
This was the Toyota Cheetahs’ first defeat to an Australian team this season, their best campaign since their Cats partnership with the MTN Lions came to an end after the 2005 season.
Although it ended in defeat in Canberra, 2013 was a monumental year for the Toyota Cheetahs:
• They finished second in the South African Conference and reached the play-offs for the first time.
• The three wins on their Australasian tour was their best ever.
• For the first time, they scored more tries than they conceded – scored 40 and conceded 32 (in 2011 they scored 44, but conceded 49).
• The 32 tries they conceded in 17 matches is the least ever (their previous best was 37 in 13 matches in 2007).
• Their average score of 23-22 in 2013 is the first time they had a “winning” average score (next best was 27-27 in 2011).
• It was the first time they won more matches than they lost – P17, W10, L7 (previous best was in 2010 – P13, W5, L7, D1).
• Their 10 victories in one season is twice as many as their previous best of five (achieved in 2006, 2010, 2011 and 2012).
Vodacom Super Rugby Semi-finals:
Chiefs v Crusaders
Date: Saturday, 27 July, 2013
Venue: Waikato Stadium, Waikato
SA kick-off time: 09h35
Vodacom Bulls v Brumbies
Date: Saturday, 27 July, 2013
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
SA kick-off time: 17h05
Brumbies 15 (6) Toyota Cheetahs 13 (5)
An unconverted last-minute try by Ryno Benjamin was not enough as the Toyota Cheetahs’ first-ever Vodacom Super Rugby play-off appearance ended in heartbreak in Canberra as the Brumbies won the second qualifier by 15-13 on Sunday morning.
The visitors from Central South Africa outscored their Aussie hosts by two tries to nil, nut unfortunately for the Toyota Cheetahs, they were heavily penalised which meant they struggled to get momentum until late in the game.
By the time the Toyota Cheetahs built up some steam, it was already too late as they were trialling by seven points. They applied the pressure late in the game and when replacement wing Benjamin dived over in the corner, Riaan Smit (flyhalf) had a difficult conversion to push the game into extra time.
Unfortunately Smit missed by inches and the Brumbies could celebrate a win in a match where they made the most of their penalty opportunities.
Toyota Cheetahs centre Johann Sadie scored the only other try of the match when he went over in the 17th minute try after a great flat pass by wing Willie le Roux. Smit missed the wide conversion – his second failed attempt of the match after missing an earlier penalty goal.
Although the Toyota Cheetahs defended very well throughout the match, they were ultimately undone by a stream of penalties, especially at the breakdowns and scrum time. The visitors conceded 14 penalties in total, five of which were converted into points by the Brumbies’ kickers, Christian Lealiifano and Nic White.
It was also not best tactical kicking display of the season from the Toyota Cheetahs, which compounded their territorial woes.
Brumbies – Penalty goals: Christian Lealiifano (4), Nic White.
Toyota Cheetahs – Tries: Johann Sadie, Ryno Benjamin. Penalty goal: Riaan Smit.
Other result – Qualifiers:
Crusaders 38 (21) Reds 9 (6)
Crusaders – Tries: Ryan Crotty (2), Dan Carter, Tom Marshall. Conversions: Carter (3). Penalty goals: Carter (3).
Reds – Penalty goals: Quade Cooper (3).