An intercept try by replacement Björn Basson five minutes from time gave the Cheetahs a 20-16 win over the Bulls in a hard-fought Super 14 pre-season encounter in Polokwane on Friday.
The Bulls, despite taking a commanding 13-3 lead at the break, failed to push that advantage home and left the back door open for the Cheetahs – who sneaked in late in the game.
Rugby 365 reports that Basson’s score came at a time when the Bulls, who enjoyed a surplus of possession, looked to close out the game deep in Cheetahs territory. But the speedy wing collected the ball near his own 22, from a Wynand Olivier pass, and sprinted clear to score the match-winning try. Centre Jacques Louis Potgieter, who took over the goal-kicking from an erratic Tewis de Bruyn, sealed the deal with his conversion.
But before that score there was plenty of drama.
The Bulls played a far more structured game than the Cheetahs, who had to rely mostly on their defence to stay in the game.
However, that defence was rock solid and a crucial factor in the flow of the game. Even though the Bulls often managed to break the first line of defence, the cover was always there.
Based on this evidence, the Cheetahs are likely to win a few more Super 14 games than in recent years.
At the breakdown the Cheetahs also had a clear edge, with Heinrich Brüssow – who became a Springbok on the year-end tour to the United Kingdom in November – often beating the Bulls in the battle on the ground.
The Bulls, defending on the structures that have won them a string of Currie Cup and a Super Rugby title in the past five years, won the battle of the boot – with Morné Steyn’s tactical kicking far superior on the day.
And with Victor Matfield back in the frame the Bulls’ line-outs were also far superior. In fact it took the Cheetahs almost the entire first half to win their first line-out and the Bulls’ sole try came from a line-out steal by Matfield.
With very little possession, the Cheetahs were reduced mostly to a defensive unit, but it was a role in which they were brilliant.
The Cheetahs will also be pleased with the dominance they had over the Bulls in the scrums during a tense second half.
For the Bulls:
Pens: Steyn 3
For the Cheetahs:
Tries: Demas, Basson
Cons: Potgieter 2
Pens: De Bruyn, Potgieter
Yellow cards: Hennie Daniller (Cheetahs, 32 – professional foul), Marius Delport (Bulls, 40 – professional foul)
Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Marius Delport, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield (captain), 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Derick Kuün, 1 Gurthrö Steenkamp.
Replacements – from: Chiliboy Ralepelle, Frik Kirsten, Dean Greyling, Danie Rossouw, Heini Adams, Burton Francis, Wayne Julies, Gerhard van den Heever, Braam Gerber/Jaco Pretorius, Jacques Burger, Wilhelm Steenkamp.
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Danwel Demas, 13 Piet van Zyl, 12 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 11 Jongi Nokwe, 10 Meyer Bosman , 9 Tewis de Bruyn, 8 Frans Viljoen, 7 Juan Smith (captain), 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 David de Villiers, 4 Nico Breedt, 3 Bees Roux, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Wian du Preez
Replacements – from: Richardt Strauss, Kobus Calldo, Wayne van Heerden, Hendro Scholtz, Kabamba Floors, Sarel Pretorius, Corné Uys, Fabian Juries, Björn Basson.
Referee: Marius JonkerTweet