Cheetahs thrash Rebels
The Cheetahs claimed their fourth straight Super Rugby win on Saturday with a 34-16 bonus-point victory over the Rebels in Bloemfontein.
Despite the soggy conditions following a thunderstorm at the Free State Stadium, the hosts outscored the team from Melbourne five tries to one to climb into the top half of the overall standings.
The Cheetahs led 10-6 at the interval before turning on the gas in the second period for a convincing win.
The Free State outfit, who followed their three wins abroad with another strong performance against the Rebels, started with some good attacking play and put the visitors under pressure early on.
Replacement fly-half Burton Francis, coming in for the injured Riaan Smit shortly before kick-off, had the visitors turning around with every tactical kick.
In pouring rain, the Cheetahs took no unnecessary chances and opted for shots at goal rather than attacking line-outs when awarded penalties.
Francis got the hosts on the board in the 15th minute via his kicking boot after the Rebels infringed at the breakdown.
The tourists put in some good hits on defence early on but struggled to capitalise on the possession they earned. In contrast, Francis' penalty inspired his team to start running with the ball, even though the poor conditions led to numerous handling errors.
Rebels full-back James O'Connor finally got his side on the board, kicking a penalty in the 22nd minute. It was some reward for the visitors in a game that lacked intensity in the first 20 minutes.
O'Connor added another three points shortly thereafter and the Rebels seemed to rise from their slumber.
The Melbourne side started playing with more gusto and in turn put the Cheetahs under pressure on their own goalline.
The hosts, however, did well on defence and snubbed the Rebels of any five pointers.
Keeping the ball in hand, the Cheetahs moved it down the backline and found space on the outside. Centre Johann Sadie broke the defence and offloaded to full-back Hennie Daniller, who went over in the corner for a converted try.
That put the Cheetahs in the driving seat with a 10-6 advantage at half-time.
The home side started the second half at a frantic pace and winger Raymond Rhule scored in the 52nd minute, with the Rebels left floundering on defence. Rhule pounced on a hand-off by centre Robert Ebersohn and ran through for a try under the uprights.
That inspired the hosts to go for the bonus point, which they achieved after winger Willie le Roux and Sadie scored in succession.
Replacement winger Rayno Benjamin then went over in the corner to put the result beyond doubt, with Rebels lock Cadeyrn Neville adding a converted five-pointer near the end to soften the blow.
Tries: Daniller, Rhule, le Roux, Sadie, Benjamin
Cons: Francis 3
Pens: O'Connor 3
Yellow card: Jones
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 Johan Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Burton Francis, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Phillip van der Walt, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lood de Jager, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Trevor Nyakane.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Coenie Oosthuisen, 18 Rynhard Landman, 19 Boom Prinsloo, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Barry Geel, 22 Ryno Benjamin.
Rebels: 15 James O'Connor, 14 Richard Kingi, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Lachlan Mitchell, 11 Jason Woodward, 10 Angus Roberts, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Jordy Reid, 6 Gareth Delve, 5 Luke Jones, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Paul Alo-Emile, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Nic Henderson.
Replacements: 16 Shota Horie, 17 Laurie Weeks, 18 Cadeyrn Neville, 19 Jarrod Saffy, 20 Scott Fuglistaller, 21 Nic Stirzaker, 22 Rory Sidey, 23 Tom English.
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa), Stefan Breytenbach (South Africa)
Television match official: Johan Greeff (South Africa)