Cheetahs hammer toothless Leopards
The Free State Cheetahs moved into second place on the Currie Cup log after hammering the bottom-placed Leopards 78-7 (halftime 47-0) in the teams’ final round-robin match played at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium near Rustenburg on Friday night.
The rampant Cheetahs, as is their way in these situations, showed their hosts absolutely no mercy on a cool and windless night, scoring 12 tries to finish the season on 47 log points -- five behind the Sharks, on 52, but three ahead of Western Province, who have 44.
WP will finish second if they manage to beat the Sharks on Saturday, while the defending champion Blue Bulls can draw level with the Cheetahs if they manage to beat Griquas with a bonus point.
However, the Free Staters’ huge win has certainly helped them in the points difference department, and they carry a 114-point cushion over their Pretoria rivals going into the weekend’s matches.
With such an advantage, the Cheetahs are now in pole position to host a semifinal should Allister Coetzee’s men slip up at Newlands.
The result of Friday’s match was never in doubt from the moment fullback Hennie Daniller crossed for the first of his two tries as early as the second minute.
The Leopards -- whose patchy record at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium suggests that it is far less of an intimidating to visiting teams than the more fortress-like Olen Park -- certainly looked to have one eye on the promotion-relegation battles to come and the 3 000 diehards who turned up to watch their side were left wondering whether they had just witnessed their Premier Division swansong.
The home side’s defence was at times non-existent as the Free Staters cut through at will, crossing for seven tries in the opening half and following that up with another five after the break.
Apart from Daniller’s brace, wingers Philip Snyman and Corné Uys also gorged themselves on two tries apiece in a night to remember for the Bloem-based back three.
Not to be outdone, the forwards weighed in with tries to eighthman Ashley Johnson, who is rapidly regaining the form that won him Springbok colours last year, try-scoring prop Coenie Oosthuizen, forgotten Bok hooker Adriaan Strauss, and veteran flanker Hendro Scholtz.
For the poor Leopards, who had to wait until the 79th minute to open their account through lock Christo van Niekerk, a miserable league season has mercifully come to an end. The record states: played 14, lost 14, points for 264, points against…654. Ouch!
For Naka Drotské’s men, an altogether more pleasing set of figures suggests that anybody who writes off their title credentials will once again do so at their peril.
Leopards 7 -- Try: Christo van Niekerk. Conversion: Clayton Durand.
Cheetahs 78 -- Tries: Meyer Bosman, Tertius Carse, Hennie Daniller (2), Ashley Johnson, Coenie Oosthuizen, Hendro Scholtz, Philip Snyman (2), Adriaan Strauss, Corné Uys (2). Conversions: Louis Strydom (6), Sias Ebersohn (3).