The Cheetahs beat the Southern Kings 20-21 at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth in what is, almost certainly, both teams’ last game in Super Rugby before they decamp to the northern hemisphere.
Niel Marais kicked a 75th-minute penalty to give the Free State side the victory.
It was all Kings going into the final quarter, but two late tries, in two minutes, by Clinton Swart and Raymond Rhule saw the visitors claw back a nine-point deficit with 16 minutes remaining.
The Kings had most of the game, but ultimately, they gave it away with some ill-discipline and terrible lineout play.
The home team outscored the Cheetahs, three tries to two, but it was the combined boot of Fred Zeilinga and Marais that saw the men in the orange, home.
Zeilinga kicked an early penalty before Makazole Mapimpi scored his 11th try of the season. The TMO was called into play to see if the winger kept his feet in play and if momentum had carried him over the whitewash.
Lionel Cronje added the extras. With four minutes remaining in the first-half, Wandile Mjekevu scored a try from close range, taking the ball on the angle and running between two defenders. Cronje missed the conversion, but the Kings had a 12-3 lead at the break.
Soon after half-time, Lubabalo Mtyanda scored a sensational try. Francois Venter lost the ball at the breakdown, deep inside the Kings’ 22.
The home team went down the field, throwing passes out the back door to support runners and keeping the play alive. Klaasen makes the final pass, after a burst to the Cheetahs’ 22 and lays the try on a plate for the lock.
Berton Klaasen made the final pass to Mtyanda, after a burst to the Cheetahs’ 22, and put the try on a plate for the lock. Cronje missed his second conversion attempt, one which would prove costly in the end: 17-3.
Zeilinga kicked a penalty on 52 minutes, instead of going for the corner and the five points, and it proved an important decision.
The Kings still had all the territory and possession, but were losing the ball forwards, or making poor choices in attack. Cronje did extend the Kings’ lead to 20-6, early in the last quarter.
With 12 minutes remaining, and some sustained pressure inside the King’s 22, the visitors got their reward, scoring their first try of the game after Swart finished in the corner. Marais could not add the extras.
Two minutes’ later, Rhule crossed for another Cheetahs’ try. Francois Venter broke the Kings’ line, charged into the opposition’s 22 and, after a switch with Rhule, passed inside to the winger, who ran away for the second try in two minutes.
Marais converted, reducing the Kings’ lead to just two points with nine minutes left.
It was all Cheetahs during this 10-minute spell; they stretched the Kings and started winning penalties after some ill-discipline. some sustained pressure led to the winning penalty goal.
The home side did mount one last attack, but it was in vain, as another lineout (their fifth) was lost, giving the visiotrs the ball with the final play of the game.
Final Score: Southern Kings 20 (12) Cheetahs 21 (3)
Tries – Mapimpi, Mjekevu, Mtyanda
Pen – Cronje
Con – Cronje
Tries – Swart, Rhule
Pen – Zeilinga (2), N. Marais (2)
Referee: Egon Seconds
Assistant Ref 1: AJ Jacobs
Assistant Ref 2: Cwengile Jadezweni
TMO: Shaun Veldsman
15 Malcolm Jaer, 14 Wandile Mjekevu, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Luzuko Vulindlu, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Lionel Cronje (captain), 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Andisa Ntsila, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 4 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Michael Willemse, 1 Mzamo Majola.
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Schalk Ferreira, 18 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 19 Irne Herbst, 20 Thembelani Bholi, 21 Masixole Banda, 22 Rudi van Rooyen, 23 Waylon Murray.
15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Francois Venter (captain), 12 Clinton Swart, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Uzair Cassiem, 5 Daniel Hugo, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Johannes Coetzee, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche.
Replacements: 16 Reinach Venter, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Armandt Koster, 20 Junior Pokomela, 21 Chris Dry, 22 Ruan van Rensburg, 23 Niel Marais