Cheetahs run Kings ragged
Daniel Gallan
September 03, 2016

The Toyota Free State Cheetahs returned form a week’s break to trounce the Eastern Province Kings 57-25 while scoring nine tries to three in their Currie Cup Premier Division encounter at the Toyota Free State Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

After an error strewn opening 10 minutes that saw both sides routinely knock the ball on, as well as a surprise try for the Kings from JC Greyling, the home side shook off the rust from a two-week break and showed exactly why they have been the early pace setters this season.

This was a match between two sides with disparaging amounts of fuel in the tank. The Kings were playing their third game in seven days while the Cheetahs were fresh from a bye – it showed on the field.

Yes, the Cheetahs play an expansive running game that few teams in the country can stand up to, yes, their tight five is monstrous when they are able to dig their heels in and yes, the Kings are a hastily assembled rag-tag outfit, but the chasm in energy levels was apparent and this is in no small part due to the recent workload of both sides.

Before championing the Cheetahs, one must spare a thought for the Kings. Throughout the Super Rugby campaign and in the lead up to this competition, a celebrated and proud union was reduced to a laughing stock. Any true rugby fan should be at least sympathetic.

The men in red and black are not clowns parading for the amusement of unforgiving fans. These are men who have sacrificed time, energy, financial reward and quite possible their rugby careers to prop up a crumbling legacy as best they can.

Despite so much riding on a successful team from the Eastern Cape, these valiant athletes will surely be bottom dwellers come the end of the season.

On to the Cheetahs who have now won four out of four. This was a complete team performance that saw forwards run and pass like backs and backline players willing to stick their head in and win the ball back.

However, this dominant forward performance did more than lay the foundation for their dynamic backline to cause havoc.

Tom Botha (who represented the Kings at Super Rugby), Paul Schoeman, Charles Marais and Ox Nche all scored tries on behalf of the big boys of Bloem.

But it was the Cheetahs’ running game that will grab the headlines. Winger, Raymond Rhule stood out for his involvement at first and second receiver off the back of a number of set plays.

Like Willie le Roux did with so much success for the Cheetahs during that magical 2013 Super Rugby season, an outside back joining the line and distributing at speed is causing problems for defenders.

This was an exhibition of off-loading, inside balls and runners against the grain from the Cheetahs. The speed with which this team seeks to attack the line and spread the ball out wide is a trademark for the Blomfontein side.

Now, with a tight five with some mongrel, they will back themselves to challenge for the title. They head to Durban next week and then host the Lions. After that we’ll have a better sense of the credentials.

As for the Kings, they finally get to go home and have a home cooked meal after a punishing tour to central South Africa.

They have a bye next week to lick their wounds and try and come up with a plan that can stop the haemorrhaging.


Cheetahs: Tries: Nico Lee (2); Tom Botha; Paul Schoeman (2); Charles Marais (2); Neil Marais; Ox Nche. Conversions: Fred Zeilinga (2); Neil Marais (1). Penalties: Fred Zeilinga (2)

Kings: Tries: JC Greyling; Berton Klaasen; Vincent Jhobo. Conversions: Johan Tromp (1); Kobus Marais (2). Penalties: Johan Tromp (1). Drop Goal: Pieter-Steyn de Wet

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