The Cheetahs claimed a rare overseas win on Saturday as they beat the Western Force 24-15 in difficult conditions in Perth.
In a match that marked the 10th anniversary of these two teams' entry into the competition, the Cheetahs crashed the Force's party, overturning a half-time deficit to claim their third win of the year before heading back to the Republic.
The Cheetahs are renowned for the attacking play but it was their defence that really stood out, making countless tackles to shut the Force out when the game was on the line.
The teams scored a try apiece in an error-strewn first half but the Force led 10-8 at the interval.
The second half was a similarly tightly-fought affair as both sides scored tries from rolling mauls to set up a close finish.
In the end, Cheetahs fly-half Joe Pietersen's boot – the source of a second-half drop-goal – proved the difference as he finished with a personal haul of 14 points.
The Cheetahs were first to strike as winger Raymond Rhule went over in the corner after a patient build up from the visitors.
The Force were rewarded for backing themselves when three easy points were on points offer as they replied with a great try. Off the back of a solid scrum, Dane Haylett-Petty produced a great offload to Luke Morahan, who clinically took the gap left Rhule leaving his man.
An excellent conversion from Luke Burton gave the hosts the lead for the first time approaching the end of the opening quarter.
Pietersen hit the target with a long-range penalty to put his side back in front just before the break as the heavens opened and heavy rain came started to come down.
But Burton replied in kind to ensure that the hosts went into the half-time break with a narrow lead.
The Force made a perfect start to the second half as a textbook rolling maul produced their second try with replacement flank Chris Alcock the man touching down. The conversion was missed though.
The Cheetahs were playing pragmatic rugby, keeping hold of the ball and Pietersen kicked over a penalty followed by a neat drop-goal to narrow the gap to a single point with half and hour left to play.
The visitors landed the killer blow inside the final quarter as Heinrich Brussow crashed over at the back of a rolling maul.
Pietersen added the extras to give his team a six-point advantage at 21-15.
A mammoth defensive effort from the Cheetahs kept the Force at bay through countless phases before a counter attack gave Pietersen the chance to add another penalty and put the game beyond reach.
For Western Force:
Tries: Morahan, Alcock
Tries: Rhule, Brussow
Pens: Pietersen 3
Western Force: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Luke Burton, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Kane Koteka, 6 Steve Mafi, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Sam Wykes (c), 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pekahou Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Oliver Hoskins, 19 Angus Cottrell, 20 Chris Alcock, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Zack Holmes, 23 Marcel Brache
Cheetahs: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Joe Pietersen, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Boom Prinsloo, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Francois Uys (c), 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 BG Uys.
Replacements: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 Danie Mienie, 18 Maks van Dyk, 19 Steven Sykes, 20 Tienie Burger, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Willie du Plessis, 23 Ryno Benjamin.
Referee: Rohan Hoffmann
Assistant Referees: Will Houston, Graham Cooper
TMO: Ian Smith