Cheetahs subdue the Reds
A spectacular brace from Piet Van Zyl inspired the Cheetahs to a 27-13 victory over the Reds in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
Rising star Elgar Watts kicked 17 points on his first start for the Cheetahs in an assured performance from the youngster.
Greater accuracy and clinical finishing from the hosts sealed a win that keeps them in touch with the Bulls at the top of the South African Conference and clear of the Sharks and Stormers.
The Reds arrived in Bloemfontein on the back of a rich streak of form, but were second best to a physical Cheetahs side who burst out of the blocks in the first half.
Rod Davies was denied an early score by the TMO, not due to his grounding of the ball but due to two instances of obstruction before the kick went through for him to chase.
There was no doubt about the Cheetahs opening try though. Bursting into space, Van Zyl glided his way past Quade Cooper to dot down in the left corner.
Cooper's struggles continued as he infringed at the breakdown, allowing Watts to knock over his first penalty of the match - the Reds controlling the majority of the early possession but finding themselves behind on the scoreboard.
Three points from the boot of Cooper put the Reds on the board and a second shot at goal minutes later put the visitors right back into the mix at 8-6 down.
Van Zyl then was at it again - a spectacular second try for the lightning scrum-half coming from Heinrich Brussow's inside pass that saw Van Zyl screech for the opposite corner to his first score through the Reds defence.
Watts' second penalty opened up an 18-6 lead for the Cheetahs as the Reds infringed again, much to the frustration of Ewen McKenzie.
Opting for pressure lineouts over points as they chased the lead, the Reds squandered their chances and nearly went further behind as the Cheetahs rumbled close to their line near the end of the first half - the hosts physicality dominating the contest.
Another Watts penalty after the break left the Reds with a 15-point mountain to climb and they came close to a score when they were denied not once, but twice by the TMO from close-range.
Struggling to capitalise on their bounty of possession, the visitors nearly came severely unstuck when Andries Strauss cantered away after intercepting Will Genia's pass, summing up the Reds' misfortune.
Ben Daley was persistently penalised for his binding at the scrum and it resulted in another penalty for Watts, who added a further three points from on the halfway line minutes later to cap an impressive performance by the young fly-half.
Toiling but never short of invention, Cooper weaved more magic to give Ben Tapuai a chance heading for the corner only for the Wallaby centre to be bundled into touch.
Dogged defence from the Cheetahs meant the Reds seemed destined to leave without crossing the whitewash, but they eventually broke their duck when Ben Lucas dived over in the corner after confirmation from the TMO.
With their spirits rejuvenated chasing the idea of a losing bonus point, the Reds threw in one last attack but it wasn't to be.
The Cheetahs, more than worthy of their win, sent the Reds down to Cape Town to face the Stormers with nothing.
Tries: Van Zyl 2
Pen: Watts 5
Pens: Cooper 2
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Elgar Watts, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lood de Jager, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Ligtoring Landman, 19 Boom Prinsloo, 20 Sarel Pretorius, 21 Riaan Smit, 22 Rayno Benjamin.
Reds: 15 Luke Morahan, 14 Rod Davies, 13 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 12 Anthony Faingaa, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 James Slipper, 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Greg Holmes.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Ed O'Donoghue, 19 Jarrad Butler, 20 Beau Robinson, 21 Ben Lucas, 22 Ben Tapuai.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Stuart Berry (South Africa), Sieg van Staden (South Africa)
Television match official: Johan Greeff (South Africa)