Cheetahs stay in the hunt
The Free State Cheetahs lifted themselves off the bottom of the Currie Cup table on Saturday after overcoming a spirited Griquas side 35-20 in Bloemfontein.
The victory saw the Bloemfontein-based side climb from the basement and up to fourth position, with Griquas dropping to fifth, just above the Blue Bulls.
The home side got on the scoreboard first when the pressure they heaped on Griquas led to tighthead prop Ross Geldenhuys' five-pointer. Winger Nico Scheepers converted to give the home side the early lead.
From the resultant kick-off it all turned a little helter-skelter with both teams squandering opportunities due to passes not going to hand.
The visitors finally got on the scoreboard in the 20th minute after fly-half Francois Brummer kicked a much-needed penalty.
A yellow card to Griquas full-back Willie le Roux for a professional foul saw the visitors one man short and the Cheetahs exploited the advantage.
Centre and captain Robert Ebersohn dotted down under the crossbar after the visitors failed to patch the holes in their defence, and Scheepers converted.
Le Roux's absence left the away side in disarray and the Cheetahs surged ahead on attack. They set up camp on Griquas' line and the immense pressure caused the visitors to infringe at the breakdown.
Scheepers kicked a penalty ten minutes before half-time to give his side a comfortable 17-3 lead.
Griquas looked down and out and not even a second penalty by Brummer to close the deficit seemed enough to lift the Kimberley-based side out of their rut. They lacked consistency on defence and earned little possession in the first 40 minutes.
They came out, however, with much more prowess and put the Cheetahs under pressure in the first five minutes of the second period.
The home side's defensive structures were up to the challenge, though, and Griquas were left wanting.
A decision to kick for touch rather than goal came off for the visitors when flanker Marnus Schoeman burst over from a rolling maul. Brummer converted to bring Griquas within four points and left the Cheetahs to regroup.
The hosts put some daylight between themselves and Griquas when wing Scheepers kicked another penalty, but winger Jannie Boshoff dived over in the corner after some good attacking play by the Griquas loose forwards. Brummer converted to level the scores.
Some attractive rugby from both sides followed, but defence was air tight before Griquas again infringed and got penalised, with Scheepers kicking the penalty with ease.
Full-back Hennie Daniller then went over in the corner after the Cheetahs put together some attacking phases of play, with Scheepers again converting. But the hosts weren't done there as wing Raymond Rhule added a bonus-point try as the Cheetahs picked up their first win in four games.
SARugby.com Man of the Match: Marcel van der Merwe.
For Free State Cheetahs:
Tries: Geldenhuys, R Ebersohn, Daniller, Rhule
Con: Scheepers 3
Pen: Scheepers 3
Tries: Schoeman, Boshoff
Con: Brummer 2
Pen: Brummer 2