The Cheetahs pulled off a shock 36-32 Super 14 victory over the Blues on Saturday, ending the New Zealanders' faint semi-final hopes.
The Cheetahs pulled off a shock 36-32 Super 14 victory over the Blues on Saturday, ending any faint hopes the New Zealand outfit had of reaching the semi-finals.
The hard-fought win was only the home side's third this season, but well deserved as the lowly Cheetahs played the spoilers role in Bloemfontein by running in five tries past their desperate visitors.
In all, nine tries were scored at Vodacom Park in a thrilling match that the Blues had to win in order to stay in the play-offs race. But they lacked their usual intensity and took the struggling Cheetahs too lightly, expecting to leave the football World Cup stadium with five points.
The Blues only had themselves to blame as they were guilty of frequent mistakes, and the Cheetahs capitalised on those errors.
Captain Juan Smith touched down first for the Cheetahs after making the visitors pay for playing risky rugby from inside their 22. It was the best start possible for the hosts, who posted seven points with barely two minutes up on the clock.
The Blues responded immediately when slick interplay between centre partners Benson Stanley and Isaia Toeava allowed the latter to sprint in from 20 metres. Fly-half Stephen Brett, playing his 50th match, levelled the scores with the conversion.
The Cheetahs then restored their lead from capitalising on two errors from the Blues. First Naas Olivier kicked a penalty after Blues prop Tony Woodcock was penalised at the scrum., and then turnover ball resulted in a Jongi Nokwe try – Smith's deft chip setting up the speedster.
Trailing 22-13 at half-time, the Blues moved five points ahead approaching the three-quarter mark of an always lively encounter watched by a small crowd thanks to tries from wing Rene Ranger and scrum-half Alby Mathewson.
However, the five-point advantage last barely a minute before blood-bin replacement forward Philip van der Walt dived over between the posts and another try from Waltie Vermeulen pushed Cheetahs nine points clear.
Wing Anthony Tuitavake dotted down at the other end four minutes from full-time, but Brett failed to convert and a stoppage-time assault petered out in midfield.
While the Blues collected two bonus points and climbed above Chiefs and Sharks, they are seven points off the fourth play-off place with just two rounds of the Super 14 left. The Cheetahs, second last above the Lions before facing the Blues, rose one place above Western Force, who visit Bloemfontein next weekend.
Man of the match: The physical presence of veteran Juan Smith played a big part in the win, the Bok flanker having an impact on both attack and defence. This amplified the Cheetahs' potency, and saw them secure their first four-try bonus point of the season.
Tries: Smith, Nokwe, Basson, Van der Walt, Vermeulen
Cons: Olivier 2, Bosman 2
Tries: Toeava, Ranger, Mathewson, Tuitavake
Cons: Brett 3
Pens: Brett 2
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Bjorn Basson, 13 Corne Uys, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Jongi Nokwe, 10 Naas Olivier, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Frans Viljoen, 7 Juan Smith (c), 6 Hendro Scholtz, 5 Barend Pieterse, 4 Izak van der Westhuizen, 3 WP Nel, 2 Ryno Barnes, 1 Wian du Preez.
Replacements: 16 Skipper Badenhorst, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Waltie Vermeulen, 19 Phillip van der Walt, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Riaan Viljoen, 22 Robert Ebersohn.
Blues: 15 Paul Williams, 14 Rene Ranger, 13 Isaia Toeava, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Joe Rokocoko, 10 Stephen Brett, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Viliami Ma'afu, 7 Tom Chamberlain, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Filo Paulo, 4 Kurtis Haiu, 3 John Afoa, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Tevita Mailau/Keven Mealamu, 17 Charlie Faumuina, 18 Anthony Boric, 19 Peter Saili, 20 Chris Smylie, 21 Daniel Kirkpatrick, 22 Anthony Tuitavake.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)