Cheetahs win nailbiting catfight
Brenden Nel
August 10, 2013

The Toyota Cheetahs opened their Absa Currie Cup campaign with a nailbiting but highly entertaining 30-29 win over the MTN Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday.

The Cheetahs kept up the away winning streak in the first round of the competition, but had to fight tooth and nail for the victory against a Lions side that just wouldn’t back down.

While the Cheetahs had the better chances, and a whole lot more territory and possession, they struggled in the end to beat a Lions side still riding high from their elevation back into Vodacom Super Rugby.

But in the process they did get a bonus point for four tries and took five points out of the game, something they will be very happy about.

Naka Drotske’s side also confirmed themselves as early favourites for the Currie Cup title, as they replicated much of the game plan that brought them success in Super Rugby, although their finishing wasn’t quite as good on the afternoon.

But the Lions have little to feel bad about, as they matched the Cheetahs in several facets, and used their chances well enough to stay in the game, but just not well enough to win it.

The home side started incredibly well as Derrick Minnie scragged Elgar Watts from the kickoff to force a five-metre scrum which led to a penalty to put them 3-0 up with just a minute on the board.

But the Cheetahs shook off the early setback, and a superb stab kick by Johann Sadie bounced perfectly for a swooping Robert Ebersohn, who just had enough to go over for the opening try despite the attention of Marnitz Boshoff on the cover defence.

Riaan Smit missed the conversion but a penalty apiece by him and Boshoff kept the scoreboard ticking.

The Cheetahs did catch the Lions napping at the front of the lineout, with Lood de Jager taking the ball, but the TMO adjudged it not to have gone five metres, and the try was disallowed.

But it didn’t take the Cheetahs long to extend their lead, as at their next opportunity they set up a perfect driving maul for Boom Prinsloo to dive over and score.

The Lions hit back straight away with some excellent interplay between backs and forwards before Dylan Des Fountain popped a beauty of a pass to a flying Stokkies Hanekom to level the scores.

Boshoff added another penalty before the break to give the Lions a somewhat fortunate 16-13 lead at halftime.

The Cheetahs started better in the second half and were immediately rewarded with some good fortune after Phillip van der Walt stopped short, and the Lions knocked the ball on into the hands of Sarel Pretorius who took the opportunity and dived over to score.

Boshoff pulled back the scoreline with a penalty but the Cheetahs answered again with some great attacking rugby as Watts put Sadie away to score in the corner for the bonus point.

It looked as if the Lions were about to start fading but they slowly clawed their way back into the game. Willie Britz barged over for his first Currie Cup try in the corner after some good work by the Lions forwards in making forays into Cheetah territory.

Watts kicked another penalty to give the Cheetahs a six point lead going into the last 10 minutes, but the Lions upped the ante and kept on pounding the Cheetah line, something which brought its own reward as Ruan Dreyer crashed over from a metre out to make it a one-point game.

Elton Jantjies missed his second crucial kick in the game and the Cheetahs held their lead.

As the clock ticked down, the Cheetahs showed both discipline and great defence to hold out an attacking Lions side, and were rewarded with the victory as referee Marius van der Westhuizen blew his whistle to end proceedings.


Lions 29 (16): Tries: Stokkies Hanekom, Willie Britz, Ruan Dreyer. Conversions: Marnitz Boshoff. Penalties: Boshoff (4).

Cheetahs 30 (13): Tries: Robert Ebersohn, Boom Prinsloo, Sarel Pretorius, Johann Sadie. Conversions: Riaan Smit, Elgar Watts. Penalties: Smit, Watts.


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