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Rugby | Vodacom Super Rugby

Cheetahs storm back for late win

A two-try burst in the space of two minutes spoilt the Southern Kings’ farewell party as the Toyota Cheetahs stormed back to win 21-20 as the two teams bowed out of Vodacom Super Rugby at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Friday night.

Cheetahs replacement flyhalf Niel Marais kicked the winning points just over five minutes from time to complete an ironic turnaround for the men from Bloemfontein, who before this game had lost several games in the last five minutes.

As their captain Francois Venter pointed out afterwards, it was sweet for them for the boot to be on the other foot for once, but the Kings should feel like they blew it.

The Kings led 12-3 at half time and 20-6 going into the last quarter hour of a game which because of the wet conditions didn’t really deliver on pre-match expectations in terms of spectacle.

It looked like the Port Elizabeth team had it well in hand, but they were too sloppy and also way too undisciplined.

The Kings conceded a slew of penalties to the whistle of referee Egan Seconds, who had a good game, and they only had themselves to blame for the momentum they surrendered through poor discipline.

Their lineouts were also a mess, and they lost four against the throw in the second half, and made the wrong call with their option when they had an attacking lineout towards the end when they were trailing by one point.

The Cheetahs' comeback was engineered by tries in the 68th and 70th minute that completely changed the complexion of the game.

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The Kings had defended well for much of the game and there were a few opportunities that the Cheetahs could have taken but didn’t.

The Cheetahs found their range late in the game, with the shift being helped by some clever substitutions from Cheetahs coach Franco Smith.

One of those was the introduction of Marais at flyhalf. He took the ball flatter than Fred Zelinga and was more of a threat.

The first Cheetahs try was scored by Clinton Swart in the corner and then it was Raymond Rhule who went over after a good switch and off a move in which their impressive captain Venter, who is back to the form that made him one of the best players in the Currie Cup last year, featured as one of the instigators.

That took the Cheetahs from a 14 point deficit to 20-18 down, and they maintained their momentum to set up the kickable penalty that Marais slotted to put his team in the lead for the firs time since the 18th minute of the game.

It was in that 18th minute that the Kings scored their first try, Makazole Mapimpi sliding over in the corner for a try that the TMO Shaun Veldsman took a long time to make his mind up on but in the end got right.

On the subject of Veldsman, he should be lauded for preventing the referees on the field from taking the usual route after a high tackle of yellow carding Cheetahs flanker Oupa Mohoje not long after the first Kings try was scored.

It looked like the ball carrier was ducking into the tackle and that was what Veldsman spotted. It was the right call, but many other TMOs would have allowed the yellow card.

The penalty awarded against Mohoje did help the Kings though, and it was from the territorial ascendancy they gained that they were able to maul their way to the Cheetahs line before putting in wing Wandile Mjekevu off a loose-scrum five metres out.

The Kings were the dominant team in the first half and could have been ahead by more than 12-3 at the break, and should be lamenting their inability to make full use of their long period of dominance.

They just kicked away too much ball in that first half, and perhaps the wet underfoot conditions played a role in that.

It wasn’t a great game and the players will probably rightly blame the conditions but it was an exciting one and in that way it was a fitting way for both teams to end their participation in Super Rugby.

If their matches against each other in the new competition they are likely to participate in, most probably the Pro-12 in Europe, are as competitive and exciting it is something to look forward to.


Toyota Cheetahs 21 – Tries: Clinton Swart and Raymond Rhule; Conversion: Niel Marais; Penalties: Fred Zeilinga 2 and Niel Marais.

Southern Kings 20 – Tries: Makazole Mapimpi, Wandile Mjekevu and Giant Lubabalo; Conversion: Lionel Cronje; Penalty: Lionel Cronje.


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