The Toyota Cheetahs continued their impressive run in this year’s Vodacom Super Rugby tournament, scoring a bonus-point 34-22 win over the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
With the victory they moved into the playoff zone, and set up next weekend’s game against the Vodacom Bulls as a potential SA conference decider.
It was a victory that would have inspired confidence in Naka Drotske’s team, and one which they will notch up with a big smile against tricky opposition as the competition starts to move towards the business end.
Led by an inspirational display by captain Adriaan Strauss, it was a perfect Cheetahs script where the usual suspects – Lappies Labuschagne, Coenie Oosthuizen, Heinrich Brussow, Willie le Roux and Robert Ebersohn – all showed their class at key points in the game to set up the victory.
The Kings were left gasping after starting the game well, racking up a 12-6 lead through the boot of Demetri Catrakilis and generally frustrating the Cheetahs attack.
It was a tactic that worked well in the opening half hour as they proved to be up to the physical challenge and were in the Cheetahs' faces, with Catrakilis grabbing any opportunity to keep the scoreboard ticking.
Elgar Watts had two penalties to make it 12-6 before the Cheetahs finally took hold of the game three minutes before halftime, converting a chance for the first time in the game when Le Roux broke blind and outstripped Steven Sykes to send Johan Sadie away for a well-worked try and a 13-12 halftime lead.
Catrakilis restored the lead with an early second-half penalty, but the Cheetahs were finding way too many holes in the defence early in the second half.
It was only a matter of time before they would find a way through and they almost broke the defence, only to see Catrakilis deliberately knock the ball down. From the ensuing penalty, the ball was taken through two phases before Piet van Zyl, who tormented the Reds last week, found a gap between two forwards that nobody else saw and darted through for the try. Van Zyl has certainly underlined his worth and it should only be a matter of time before we see him in the Green and Gold.
With the lead in hand, the Cheetahs' confidence grew, and they simply kept on attacking, with the holes now opening up easier and front foot ball almost a certainty.
It wasn’t long before Sadie got his second, although there may have been a knock on missed in the movement, but it mattered not and in a matter of minutes the Cheetahs had surged to a 27-15 lead, with the game basically over.
Sadie then made the bonus point try by picking up a ball in the 22, and running sideways past at least four Kings defenders, until he had enough space to put Le Roux away for a try that finished the game as a contest.
The Kings did manage to score a late try when scrumhalf Nicolas Vergalo picked up the ball from a ruck and went straight ahead without a hand being laid upon him, but it was too little too late.
The Cheetahs did what they came to do, they grabbed the five points on offer and gave themselves a great dollop of confidence playing some good attacking rugby.
The Kings were left still searching for their first victory over a South African opponent.
Southern Kings – Try: Nicolas Vergallo. Conversion: George Whitehead. Penalties: Demetri Catrakilis (5).
Toyota Cheetahs – Tries: Johann Sadie (2), Piet van Zyl, Willie le Roux. Conversions: Elgar Watts (4). Penalties: Elgar Watts (2).