Pretorius sparks Cheetahs victory
Sarel Pretorius scored two tries as the Cheetahs beat the Highlanders 36-19 in an entertaining Super Rugby clash in Invercargill on Saturday.
The result is the Cheetahs' first win over the Highlanders in eight attempts, but they certainly deserved the four points collected at Rugby Park as they bounced back from a drubbing at the hands of the Chiefs last week.
The sides scored three tries each with all the Highlanders' touchdowns coming via a hat-trick from wing Kade Poki.
The Cheetahs backs scored all the tries but credit must go to their untouchable line-out and outstanding back row, who dominated their opposition.
Three first-half tries from the Cheetahs, including a charge down and an intercept, saw the visitors race to a 30-7 lead.
The second half was simply a case of managing that lead and the Highlanders never realistically threatened a comeback.
An early penalty from Johan Goosen gave the Cheetahs the lead and they went further ahead on the 20-minute mark when Pretorius finished off a wonderful move that he had started in his own 22.
The Cheetahs were rewarded for their industrious spirit and excellent support play from Pretorius saw the scrum-half bolt clear. Goosen added the extras and a penalty to leave the visitors 13-0 up.
The Highlanders' reply wasn't long in coming however as Poki collected Lima Sopoaga's chip ahead to score and narrow the gap to six.
That was the home fly-half's last positive contribution however as the rest of his game proved to be a nightmare.
Robert Ebersohn charged down Sopoaga before turning on the afterburners to score the Cheetahs' second try and leave Goosen with an easy conversion. The Free Staters' fly-half then landed a long-range penalty after Sopoaga was caught offside to stretch the lead at 23-7.
Sopoaga was again the guilty party when Pretorius intercepted near half way and sprinted clear for his second the Cheetahs' third try.
That was the final straw for Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph, who yanked Sopoaga off in favour of Colin Slade just before half time.
The hosts got the second half off a perfect start as Poki bagged his second at the end of huge overlap after a sweeping build up.
As planned, Springbok flank Heinrich Brüssow made his long-awaited return to the playing field with 30 minutes left on the clock he was immediately in the thick of the action.
Goosen added three more points going into the final quarter as it became clear the Highlanders were not going to be able to fight back.
Poki's hat-trick score proved too little too late as Goosen's fifth penalty rubbed salt into the home side's wounds.
Tries: Poki 3
Cons: Sopoaga, Slade
Tries: Pretorius 2, Ebersohn
Cons: Goosen 3
Pens: Goosen 5
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Phil Burleigh, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Jake Paringatai, 7 John Hardie, 6 Joe Wheeler, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Ma'afu Fia, 2 Andrew Hore (c), 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Brayden Mitchell, 17 Chris King, 18 Jarrad Hoeata, 19 Tim Boys, 20 Fumiaki Tanaka, 21 Colin Slade, 22 Ma'a Nonu.
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Frans Viljoen, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Trevor Nyakane.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Rynhard Landman, 19 Heinrich Brüssow, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Riaan Smith, 22 Ryno Benjamin.
Venue: Rugby Park, Invercargill
Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)