The Vodacom Free State Cheetahs raced to a relentless 78-7 (halftime 31-0) victory over the Valke in an Absa Currie Cup match in Brakpan on Friday night.
Zelim Nel writes for SuperRugby that the Cheetahs simply outgunned the Valke in every facet of play in a game that could be used as a case study to prove the argument that the competition needs to be restructured to provide for more evenly matched contests.
The Cheetahs bounded into a 14-point lead in the first quarter as they were given free reign to run the ball from everywhere on the field by a Valke team that failed to press on defence.
Having secured a two-try lead, the defending champions settled into a more tactical approach, suppressing the Valke with accurate touch-finders, before again asserting themselves by rolling over the home team with a far superior pack of forwards that dominated possession, and took full advantage of two yellow-cards against the Valke.
The defending champions scored 12 tries, boasting a Jongi Nokwe hat-trick, a brace of tries by JW Jonker and Tewis de Bruyn and a penalty-try, while Duanne Vermeulen, Kabamba Floors, Heinrich Brussow and Jacques-Louis Potgieter added a try each, and Potgieter slotted eight conversions with one more coming from De Bruyn.
The Valke scored just one try through replacement hooker Ryno Barnes, converted by replacement fullback Jeff Perkins.
Such a period of forward-dominance, complemented by quickly recycled ball and slick phase-play, resulted in the Cheetahs’ first two scores as Jonker tumbled through a tackle to ground the ball over the try-line eleven minutes into play before number eight Duanne Vermeulen powered over from short range after a spell of sustained pressure in the home team’s red zone three minutes later.
To make matters worse for the hapless Valke, referee Deon van Blommestein yellow-carded replacement scrumhalf Gert Lubbe at the end of the first quarter when he blatantly spoiled a promising Cheetahs foray by playing the ball in the ruck, and the visitors responded by scoring three tries before half time.
Potgieter cut through an indifferent Valke line and drew the last man to send Nokwe over for a try at the start of the second quarter.
Seven minutes later, Vermeulen fielded a kick in his 22 and similarly fended off a pair of would-be tacklers as he rumbled upfield before being brought to ground.
The Cheetahs probed blind before stretching the ball wide right to Nokwe who drew the last man to find Jonker on his outside for the vital bonus-point score.
And when Cheetahs captain Barend Pieterse charged down an attempted clearing kick deep inside the Valke 22, Floors pounced on the loose ball to give the Cheetahs a 31-point lead at the break.
The Cheetahs continued to control proceedings in the second half with De Bruyn bumping off his opposite number from a ten-metre scrum in front of the uprights just five minutes after the restart, and Nokwe left the Valke defenders for dead when he sped up the right-hand touchline two minutes later for his second try.
The Valke spilled the ball inside the Cheetahs 22 towards the end of the third quarter and Jonker took the opportunity to hack the ball downfield.
Winger Eddie Fredericks gave chase and toed the ball ahead twice, but he knocked the ball on in the act of gathering the ball just metres from the try-line as Valke replacement fullback Jeff Perkins tackled him without the ball, and Van Blommestein consequently yellow-carded the Valke player after consulting the television match official.
With a numerical advantage the visitors easily maintained their grip on territory and, from a scrum deep in the Valke 22, they launched an attack that resulted in Brussow dragging a tackler over to score to the left of the uprights with 20 minutes remaining.
De Bruyn slipped a feeble tackle inside the Valke 22 five minutes later to score his second and round off another overpowering assault by the visitors before the Valke finally found their way onto the scoreboard with 11 minutes remaining.
Replacement hooker Ryno Barnes was rewarded for a competent series of phases against a Cheetahs team that appeared to be contemplating their win when he handed replacement hooker Richardt Strauss off to charge over for the try and Perkins converted.
But the score appeared to wake the slumbering Cheetahs, as Potgieter repeated his strong first-half run, slipping a pair of tackles after receiving the ball just outside the Valke 22 to assert his team’s superiority by scoring their eleventh try with eight minutes remaining, and Nokwe scampered over to secure his hat-trick in the final minute.
The win lifts the Cheetahs to 37 points on the standings, four behind the third-placed Xerox Lions and five ahead of Vodacom Western Province.
The former team plays the Sharks in Johannesburg on Saturday while the latter faces Boland in Wellington.
If WP win by a margin of more than 29 points they will edge the Cheetahs out of fourth place on the standings.
The Valke remain in last place with 13 log points.
Cheetahs – Tries: JW Jonker (2), Duanne Vermeulen, Jongi Nokwe (3), Kabamba Floors, Tewis de Bruyn (2), Penalty-try, Heinrich Brussow, Jacques-Louis Potgieter. Conversions: Potgieter (8), De Bruyn.
Valke – Try: Ryno Barnes. Conversion: Jeff Perkins.Tweet