Cheetahs into play-offs!
The Cheetahs booked their place in the Super Rugby play-offs on Saturday with a 34-13 win over the Blues at Free State Stadium.
The Cheetahs will enjoy a bye next weekend, which will take them to 54 points, ensuring they will finish in the top six for the first time in the history of the franchise.
The result also means the Sharks, Blues, Waratahs and Stormers are out of the running to make the knock-out stages.
The Cheetahs dominated possession and territory in the first half and held a deserved 19-10 lead at the interval thanks to a try from number eight Philip van der Walt and a handful of penalties from fly-half Riaan Smit.
Considering they had enjoyed nearly 70 percent of the ball in the first period, the Cheetahs should have been ahead by more than nine points but an excellent try, finished off by Blues scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park, ensured the visitors were ahead until the quarter-hour mark and still in the mix at the break.
But the Cheetahs scored two tries in the final ten minutes to put the result beyond doubt.
Smit opened the scoring with an early penalty but the Blues were first to cross the whitewash when Peter Saili broke clear before offloading to Gibson-Park, who cruised over.
Baden Kerr's conversion gave the visitors a 7-3 lead but Smit cut the gap to a singe point before van der Walt took advantage of a big scrum from the Cheetahs - who forced a tighhead - breaking off the back and muscling his way over the line.
The Cheetahs made a hash of a number of further opportunities to score and had to rely on Smit's accuracy from the kicking tee for the rest of their points until halftime.
Indeed, the trend of wasted chances due to impatience continued in the second half and the Blues reduced the deficit to six points as Kerr found the target from long range just before the hour mark.
Smit replied in kind though to take the scores to 22-13 going into the final quarter.
The result was secured in the 74th minute when replacement scrum-half Sarel Pretorius scored on the counter attack.
The hosts added a cherry to the cake in the dying moments as Boom Prinsloo touched down after a drive from the Cheetahs forwards.
Tries: van der Walt, Pretorius, Prinsloo
Cons: Smit 2
Pens: Smit 5
Pens: Kerr 2
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Riaan Smit, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Ligtoring Landman, 4 Lood de Jager, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Coenie Oosthuizen
Replacements:. 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Waltie Vermeulen, 19 Boom Prinsloo, 20 Sarel Pretorius, 21 Elgar Watts, 22 Rayno Benjamin.
Blues:15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Jackson Willison,12 Francis Saili, 11 Rene Ranger, 10 Baden Kerr, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Ali Williams (C ), 4 Anthony Boric, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 James Parsons, 1 Sam Prattley
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Culum Retallick, 19 Brendon O'Connor, 20 Wayne Ngaluaf, 21 Marty McKenzie, 22 George Moala
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)