Cheetahs score remarkable victory
The Toyota Cheetahs scored one of the most remarkable victories in Vodacom Super Rugby as they showed amazing fighting spirit to come back from 32-11 down to beat the Hurricanes 47-38 in Wellington on Saturday.
It was the Cheetahs first-ever victory in New Zealand and ensured their best haul of points from a tour in their history as they played both Dr Jeckle and Mr Hyde in a game that was both entertaining, frustrating and enthralling at the same time.
While the Cheetahs boasted more possession and territory throughout the game, they made poor mistakes at times, especially in the first half, that were turned into points by the Hurricanes.
However, in the second half, led by inspirational performances by props Coenie Oosthuizen, WP Nel and captain Adriaan Strauss, the Cheetahs turned matters around, tightened up their mistakes and ensured they didn’t give away points on a platter as they did early on.
If their defence and ball retention were better in the first half, they would have won this game by a large margin, but the fighting spirit they employed simply not to lie down and lose when 20 points down was remarkable. So many South African sides in the past would never have got near the passion displayed by the Bloemfontein side.
In an open, flowing game where the Cheetahs outscored their opposition six tries to four, it was both frustrating to see defence splintered so easily but at times breathtaking to see the tries scored.
This all begs the question as to what part they will play in the South African conference drama when they return home to their Bloemfontein base. If they can continue to show the same amount of grit and tenacity and win their home games, they may well be a real threat to the more favoured South African franchises in the title race.
There were worrying signs when the Hurricanes opened up the Cheetahs defence so easily in the opening minutes, as Dane Coles strolled between two defenders to score the opening try.
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And while the Cheetahs clawed their way back into the game through Johan Goosen’s two penalties and a well-worked try by Andries Strauss, their poor ball retention and tackling got a working over as the Canes made them pay for their mistakes.
The Cheetahs had completed no less than 15 phases when they lost the ball on the Canes tryline, only to watch it spread wide as Beauden Barrett broke four poor tackles to score at the other end of the field.
A few minutes later it was a similar story as another turnover was run out of the 22 by Faifili Levave and passed to Andre Taylor to add the speed and score at the other end of the field.
Another turnover and another try as TJ Perenara posted a perfect replica of the previous try to see the Cheetahs fall 32-11 behind through their own mistakes.
But then just as the faith was beginning to fade, it was left to fullback Hennie Daniller, who had an exceptional game, to spark the comeback. Content to kick the ball downfield, the Hurricanes were made to pay for this tactic as Daniller broke the line, and finished off the move a while later in the corner.
Daniller was at it again as he again made space before sending Rayno Benjamin over in the corner to bring the Cheetahs within seven and just when it seemed the halftime hooter was to sound, Coenie Oosthuizen burrowed his way over from close range to tie the scores at 32-apiece in a remarkable first half of rugby.
The second half was a lot tighter, Barrett adding an early penalty as both sides still tried to gain an ascendency. The Cheetahs then finally got a payoff for the ascendancy they had in territory and possession as WP Nel went over with a great pick and drive.
It was the Hurricanes who blinked first, as Barrett missed a sitter in front of the posts to miss an opportunity to take the lead with 15 minutes to go and the Cheetahs made them pay with 10 minutes left as they mauled the ball up for 40 metres before Oosthuizen made the final lunge to score the try.
Late in the game Oosthuizen made a telling steal as the Canes tried desperately to get themselves back and when the prop said in the post-match interview that the Cheetahs would be celebrating this victory, you could believe him after the fight they put up to claim it.
Hurricanes – Tries: Dane Coles, Beauden Barrett, Andre Taylor, TJ Perenara. Conversions: Barrett (3). Penalties: Barrett (4).
Toyota Cheetahs – Tries: Andries Strauss, Hennie Daniller, Rayno Benjamin, Coenie Oosthuizen (2), WP Nel. Conversions: Johan Goosen (4). Penalties: Goosen (3).