The Free State Cheetahs are got their 2019 Currie Cup campaign off to the perfect start with a 43-27 win over the Blue Bulls in Pretoria on Friday.
The Cheetahs outscored the Bulls by six tries to five on their way to victory with centre Benhard Janse van Rensburg getting a double.
It was the Bulls’ second defeat in a row after starting the season with a 5-20 defeat to Western Province in Round One.
There was also some disruption to their team before kick-off. Captain Burger Odendaal was a late withdrawal with Dylan Sage coming into the team to partner Johnny Kotze in the midfield.
The Cheetahs opened the scoring in the fifth minute via a Tian Schoeman penalty and they extended that lead four minutes later when No.8 Henco Venter broke free from a maul inside the Bulls’ half to sprint in for the first try of the game.
Schoeman was successful with the conversion and after 10 minutes the Cheetahs were 10 points in front.
The Bulls eventually got their first points of the game in the 12th minute when Cornal Hendricks ran in for a try after some good attacking play from his teammates.
The Cheetahs were bullying the Bulls at scrum time and they used their dominance to keep the Bulls pinned in their own half, which eventually resulted in a try for Janse van Rensburg in the corner in the 26th minute.
Janse van Rensburg was in again in the 33rd minute after some great running rugby from his teammates inside the Bulls’ half. Schoeman added the extra two points with the conversion and the Cheetahs had a comfortable 17-point lead.
The Bulls brought themselves back into the game in the 38th-minute with Ruan Steenkamp finding his way over the tryline after a powerful driving maul inside the Cheetahs’ 22.
Manie Libbok was successful with the conversion to make it a 10-point ball game.
The Bulls dominated possession and territory in the opening stages of the second half, but it was the Cheetahs who opened the scoring after fullback Louis Fouche powered his way to the tryline after a rare foray in the Bulls’ half.
Schoeman added the extra two points and the Cheetahs restored their 17-point lead.
It took a bit of magic from wing Rosko Specman to get the Bulls back into the game. After being put into space down the touchline, the former Sevens star chipped the ball over Fouche before gathering and scoring his team’s third try.
However, the Cheetahs found a way to get points again when they were inside the Bulls’ half. This time it was replacement Jasper Wiese who crossed over for a try in the 59th minute after a powerful driving maul. Schoeman was successful with the conversion.
Things went from bad to worse for the Bulls in the 74th minute when Cheetahs replacement Darren Adonis picked up a loose ball inside the Bulls’ half to sprint in for his team’s sixth try, which Schoeman converted.
The Bulls scored two more tries in the final few minutes to add some respectability score.
Man of the match: Cheetahs No.8 Henco Venter was outstanding in open play. He was hard to bring down and he scored an excellent try as well.
For Blue Bulls:
Tries: Hendricks, Steenkamp, Specman, Grobbelaar, Van Vuuren
For Free State Cheetahs:
Tries: Venter, Janse van Rensburg 2, Fouche, Wiese, Adonis
Cons: Schoeman 5
Blue Bulls: 15 Divan Rossouw, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Dylan Sage, 12 Johnny Kotze, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Tim Agaba, 7 Roelof Smit, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Andries Ferreira, 4 Ruan Nortje, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Simphiwe Matanzima.
Replacements: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 18 Conraad van Vuuren, 19 Adre Smit, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Marnitz Boshoff, 23 Jade Stighling.
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Louis Fouche, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 Dries Swanepoel, 11 Rabz Maxwane, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Tian Meyer (captain), 8 Henco Venter, 7 Abongile Nonkontwana, 6 Junior Pokomela, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Sintu Manjezi, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Ox Nche.
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Reinach Venter, 19 JP du Preez, 20 Jasper Wiese, 21 Gerhard Olivier, 22 Dian Badenhorst, 23 Darren Adonis.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant referees: Stephan Geldenhuys, Christoper Allison
TMO: Joey Klaaste-Salmans