The Cheetahs beat Griquas 28-9 in Round 7 of Super Rugby Unlocked at a soaking Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein.
Andisa Ntsila, Howard Mnisi, Ruben de Haas, and Jeandré Rudolph ensured a bonus-point win as the Cheetahs claimed hard-fought weather affected Super Rugby match in the City of Roses.
The win sees the Free State side finish fourth on the Super Rugby Unlocked table behind Stormers, Sharks, and the Bulls, who claimed the title after beating the Pumas at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.
Tian Schoeman had a nightmare from the tee, kicking two from seven; however, the 29-year-old’s counterpart also had a poor day with the boot.
Tinus de Beer kicked three penalties but, crucially, missed two shots at goal, which proved costly in a one-score game.
Griquas led 9-8 at the break thanks to De Beer’s boot, but a Ntsila score and penalty from Schoeman kept the Cheetahs on their tail.
The Kimberely men continued to cause problems for the hosts but could not trouble the scoreboard.
Instead, three late second-half tries from Mnisi, De Haas and Rudolph, sealed the deal.
Griquas took a slender one-point lead into the shed after a controlled, disciplined first-half display
Both teams struggled in the wet conditions, which levelled the playing field, while not allowing the Cheetahs to play their natural high-tempo running game.
Head Coach Scott Mathie’s tactics worked a treat as his charges negotiated the poor weather expertly, whereas Hawies Fourie’s men did not adapt.
The Cheetahs looked to dominate but their backline was kept in check by a solid drift-defence, while the home team’s handling and decision-making left a lot to be desired.
Griquas stayed in the hunt by playing the percentages, kicking the ball in behind the opposition’s dangerous backline, pinning them inside their half.
The front rows struggled to keep their footing in the wet, and the kickers shanked a few kicks from hand as well as from the tee.
Mathie made sure his team took the points – or at least attempted every opportunity to take the points – by taking shots at goal whenever and where ever possible.
Cheetahs start fast, but fade as the weather dictated terms; Griquas, conversely, grew into the contest
Fourie’s side struck first, four minutes into the game after some superb footballing skills by Tian Meyer and Rosco Specman.
Meyer’s grubber, after a driving maul, was toed forward twice by Specman down the sideline.
Zak Burger tried to get back but he could not control the rolling ball, and Ntsila, who beat Specman to the bouncing ball, dotted down in the corner.
Schoeman could not convert.
Rudolph, despite being told three times to leave the ball because he was off his feet and in from the side, does not, allowing the opposition a shot at goal from in front.
A kicking duel ensued as both flyhalves traded penalties. Schoeman missed another attempt before Griquas’ forwards won a scrum-penalty that allowed De Beer to reduce the gap to two points after 25 minutes.
De Beer missed from long-range before another Rudolph infringement saw the 24-year-old put his side in front four minutes before the interval.
Cheetahs took control of the second stanza, their better conditioning keeping them in the game as Griquas started to run out of gas
The flyhalf missed an early second-half penalty before some scrappy play led to the Cheetahs winning an attacking lineout on the Griquas line.
Rudolph, making up for his two mistakes, dislodged the ball to give his team possession before the lineout.
From the attacking set-piece, the Cheetahs forwards battered the line. eventually, the visitors ran out of defenders as the ball was switched wide Mnisi to flop over for the score.
Schoeman could not convert, keeping the scores to within one score.
Griquas began to tire. The Cheetahs made changes from their bench before 55 minutes. Somehow, the Kimberley men managed to keep their hosts at bay.
Another kickable penalty opportunity was not turned down by the Free State side, and Schoeman made no mistake, extending the lead to 16-9 at the start of the final quarter.
The Free State flyhalf missed another kick with nine minutes remaining before a calamity of errors saw the home team finish the opposition off.
Specman’s grubber was not gathered by De Beer, the rolling ball fumbled behind the goal line by Rhyno Smith before Ruben de Haas beat Specman to the bouncing ball to score.
Rudolph provided the icing on the cake with a last-minute try that flattered the Cheetahs. But a win’s, a win.
Final Score: Cheetahs 28 (8) Griquas 9 (9)
Tries – Ntsila, Mnisi, De Haas, Rudolph
Pen – Schoeman (2)
Con – Fortuin
Pen – De Beer (3)
Referee: AJ Jacobs
Assistant Ref 1: Griffin Colby
Assistant Ref 2: Ben Crouse
TMO: Willie Vos
15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Rhyno Smith, 13 Howard Mnisi, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Jeandré Rudolph, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Andisa Ntsila, 5 Carl Wegner (captain), 4 Ian Groenewald, 3 Hencus van Wyk, 2 Reinach Venter, 1 Boan Venter
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Cameron Dawson, 18 Khutha Mchunu, 19 JP du Preez, 20 Chris Massyn, 21 Ruben de Haas, 22 Reinhardt Fortuin, 23 William Small-Smith
15 Masixole Banda, 14 Ederies Arendse, 13 Harlon Klaasen, 12 Johnathan Francke, 11 Eduan Keyter, 10 Tinus de Beer, 9 Zak Burger (captain), 8 Carl Els, 7 Stefan Willemse, 6 Gideon van der Merwe, 5 Cameron Lindsay, 4 Adré Smith, 3 Ewald van der Westhuizen, 2 HJ Luus, 1 Mox Mxoli
Replacements: 16 Monde Hadebe, 17 Andrew Beerwinkel, 18 Madot Mabokela, 19 Ewan Coetzee, 20 CJ Velleman, 21 Theo Maree, 22 André Swarts, 23 Daniel Kasende