Cheetahs make Vodacom Cup final
May 03, 2008
A try four minutes from time by prop Ronnie Uys sent the Vodacom Free State Cheetahs into the R1m Vodacom Cup final with a 27-22 victory (halftime 7-7) over Western Province in Cape Town on Saturday.

The try by the rotund front-rower sealed the win for the visiting Cheetahs in a see-sawing second half which saw the lead change three times.

The score completed the Cheetahs’ comeback in the final 17 minutes as they overcame a nine-point deficit to eject Vodacom Western Province from the tournament just when they were four minutes from reaching the finals for the first time.

The visitors scored first from a quick-tap deep in WP territory in the 25th minute when Vodacom Cheetahs hooker Jaco du Toit lured defenders towards the touchline before switching with winger Giscard Pieters for a simple try. Scrumhalf Jandre Blom’s conversion was successful.

The Cheetahs were reduced to 14 men two minutes later when lock Flip van der Merwe -- brother of WP lock Francois -- was sin-binned for intentionally pulling his counterpart in the lineout.

The home team immediately took advantage of the extra man when flyhalf Isma-eel Dollie threaded a pass in traffic to fullback Hayden Groepes near halfway. Groepes fed centre PJ Vermeulen on the overlap and then winger Terry Jacobs sped into the Cheetahs’ 22, drawing the last defender before passing inside to centre Morgan Newman for WP’s first try of the match. Dollie’s conversion levelled the score at 7-7 -- due in part to the visitors missing three penalty kicks -- before the referee blew the half-time whistle.

A period of poor tackling by the home team saw the Cheetahs enjoy a territorial advantage in the third quarter, and they put it to good use when Jandre Blom slotted a 30-metre penalty from in front of the uprights to give the visitors the lead with 30 minutes remaining. Blom repeated the feat four minutes later, this time from 50 metres out (13-7).

But Western Province responded quickly -- replacement scrumhalf Paul Delport snatched a loose ball from a scrum on the Cheetahs five-metre line and sped over for the score to bring the home within two points of the lead.

Dollie’s successful 25-metre penalty-kick at the start of the fourth quarter put the home team in the lead for the first time (15-13). Replacement forward Nico du Plessis then drove over from the blindside of a ruck with 13 minutes remaining, and replacement flyhalf Ricardo Croy converted to extend Western Province’s advantage a further seven points.

But the Cheetahs had no intention of surrendering, and flyhalf Sias Ebersohn led his team back into contention, bursting down the right wing to score before slotting the conversion to bring the visitors within three points of the lead.

Newman was sin-binned soon after and the visitors took the opportunity to score again to reclaim the lead for the final time when Uys crashed over and fullback Wilton Peterson converted.

Western Province tried in vain to run the ball out of their 22 as time ran out -- the Cheetahs celebrated their promotion to the Vodacom Cup final on May 16 in Pretoria as the final whistle was blown.


Western Province - Tries: Morgan Newman, Paul Delport, Nico du Plessis. Conversions: Isma-eel Dollie, Ricardo Croy. Penalties: Dollie.

Cheetahs - Tries: Giscard Pieters, Sias Ebersohn, Ronnie Uys. Conversions: Jandre Blom, Ebersohn, Wilton Peterson. Penalties: Blom (2).

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