The Cheetahs came back from 21-3 down to make a game of it, but failed by just one point as the Chiefs triumphed 33-32 in an entertaining Vodacom Super 14 clash on Friday.
The Cheetahs took two bonus points from the game for scoring four tries and finishing within seven points, but the Chiefs moved into fifth place on 27 points and still in with a chance of making the play-offs.
The result adds pressure to South Africaâ€™s two remaining hopes â€“ the Sharks and Bulls â€“ who now have to win this weekend or see their semis dream shattered.
The Cheetahs had looked dead and buried by the 16th minute after the Chiefs had raced into a 21-3 lead thanks to three well-worked tries, admittedly mostly from poor play by the visitors.
But as slick as the home side had looked in the first 20 minutes they collapsed into complete mediocrity and the Cheetahs pounced with tries by Ronnie Cooke and Willem de Waal before the break. The chiefs led 26-17 at the break.
The game was played at huge speed, but was littered with errors throughout. The entertainment value though was out of the top drawer as the teams traded blow for blow in one of the better matched Super 14 encounters this season.
For the Chiefs Sitiveni Sivivatu was a constant threat and he notched a brace of tries, but the Cheetahs were never out of it as the game served up thrilling moment after thrilling moment.
For the Cheetahs, it was a fantastic comeback after the first 15 minutes and an indication of their effort was that they only conceded their first penalty in the 72nd minute.
But even with their discipline superb, it was not enough to get their elusive first overseas away win in the competition against a team that gave the Cheetahs plenty of chances to make the game their own.
At the business end of the game, first scrumhalf Falie Oelschig, who otherwise had a fine game, and then Gaffie du Toit booted away possession when holding onto the ball seemed a far better option. Ultimately it may have cost the Cheetahs the win.
Tries: Stephen Donald, Sitiveni Sivivatu 2, Liam Messam, Sean Hohneck
Con: Donald 4
Tries: Ronnie Cooke, Willem de Waal, Ollie le Roux, Giscard Pieters
Con: de Waal 3
Pen: de Waal 2
THE MOMENTS THAT MATTER:
79 mins: Cheetahs in Chiefs territory, but Chiefs have the ball. Kelleher boots it down field. Du Toit replies with a kick that goes out on full. Chiefs lineout inside Cheetahs half. They are just controlling the ball. Hooter sounds and it’s all over. Cheetahs lose by one point. Only themsemves to blame.
76 mins: Lineout about 15m out from Cheetahs line to Cheetahs. de Waal clears but it’s not out. Chiefs counter. Fortuin gets the ball from another up and under. Ball is recycled to De Waal and he punts up to halfway.
72 mins: Cheetahs concede first penalty, but is is missed from about 40m out. Everything still to play for.
70 mins: Cheetahs score through Giscard Pieters after another high ball is spilled and then Byron Kelleher knocks on on his line. Pieters scores under the sticks. De Waal makes no mistake. One point in it. (De Waal 5/6)
69 mins: Meyer Bosman is on. Changes rung by both coaches. Another high ball and Pieters is smashed by Sivivatu, but the big winger is penalised for playing the ball on the ground. Foruin’s kick is out on Chiefs 10m line.
65 mins: The booming kicks are working for Cheetahs. This time it is Du Toit. Lineout Cheetahs. They rumble forward. Os du Randt is on and making his presence felt. Cheetahs retain ball well, but lose ground. High kicks all over the place. Chiefs eventually put it out inside Cheetahs 22.
62 mins: It’s all getting a little scrappy. Both teams making errors. Scrum Cheetahs. Oelschig comes away. Fortuin booms the ball deep into Chiefs territory.
58 mins: Cheetahs charge down and recover the pill. Long kick into corner. Relief kick is fluffed. Lineout Cheetahs close in. Maul. Penalty to Cheetahs in front for another offside by Sivivatu. this time they kick the penalty. De Waal is successful. (De Waal 4/5)
54 mins: Chiefs chip ahead through David Hill. De Waal picks up but knocks on in tackle. Scrum to Chiefs inside 22. Ball spurts out and no one in Cheetahs looks interested. Lock Sean Hohneck gleefully grabs the ball and scores. Conversion is good.
50 mins: Rassie Erasmus’s team talk obviously was powerful at the break. The Cheetahs are looking good. Penalty for offside in front, but prefer to go for lineout. Maul. Several phases hammering away. Chiefs lucky to get away with it as Cheetahs are pinged for a knock on when offside looked suspiciously bad.
46 mins: Both teams are kicking more. The pace of the first half has clearly caught up with them. Penalty to Cheetahs for killing the ball. Go for lineout. Use the maul well and creep up to the line. Cheetahs pressure pays off and big ollie le Roux barges over. De Waal misses. (de Waal 3/4)
43 mins: Chiefs spill it. Cheetahs hack ahead, but Sivivatu is back to dot down. 22 kick. Cheetahs have ball. Cross kick by de Waal, but secured by Chiefs on their 22. Scrum Chiefs.
41 mins: Donald gets the second half underway. Chiefs on attack. Still have plenty possession, just like the first half. Donald kicks in Cheetahs territory. Cheetahs lineout. Ruck. Kick by de Waal and out on halfway.
39 mins: The miss doesn’t seem to matter as the Cheetahs cough the ball up again and Sivivatu combines with Donald for their fourth try. Donald misses the conversion, but the lead is back up to nine points. (Donald 3/4)
37 mins: Anthony Tahana butchers a chance to score when he drops the pass on the right wing just inside the Cheetahs 22. Oelschig clears with another good kick. Lineout to Chiefs just inside Cheetahs half.
35 mins: It’s getting a bit untidy from both teams, but still the Chiefs have the ball about 30m out. They set up the rolling maul. Fortuin makes the mark from high ball. Lineout to chiefs on 10m line.
33 mins: Frantic pace continues as Oelschig is forced to throw a wild pass to Du Toit. His snap kick bounces far down field, but Chiefs take throw quickly and eventually the ball is out on halfway. Chiefs lineout. Chiefs knock. Cheetahs knock. Scrum Cheetahs in midfield.
31 mins: More scrappy play from Chiefs and Cheetahs pounce. Former Chiefs player Keith Lowen is prominent until he knocks on. Chiefs counter and Oelschig is forced to kick into touch on the full. Lineout Chiefs about 35m out.
29 mins: The see-saw encounter continues as the Chiefs attack and a great kick goes out 5m from Cheetahs line. Cheetahs secure and Kabamba Floors punches up. Ball comes back and De Waal punts it out up field.
25 mins: Scrum to Cheetahs inside Chiefs 22. Ruck sets up in midfield. De Waal goes right and keeps going through the gap for a try to the flyhalf. It’s been all Cheetahs in the last few minutes. de Waal kicks the conversion and it’s a four-point ball game. (De Waal 3/3)
24 mins: Cheetahs playing with a little more freedom, but good cover defence cuts out a promising attack. Scrum to chiefs just inside their half.
21 mins: Chiefs are all over the Cheetahs. Only scrambling defence saves the visitors. Falie Oelschig clears and they move up field. Fortuin darts round and sends Ronnie Cooke over for a crucial try under the poles. De Waal makes no mistake. (De Waal 2/2)
16 mins: Chiefs prosper from another Cheetahs turnover. Prop Nathan White is held up over the line, but from the ensuing 5m scrum they attack and No 8 Liam Messam crashes over. Donald’s kick is good. Cheetahs defence is poor. (Donald 3/3)
11 mins: Cheetahs drive from lineout and move up close to the Chiefs tryline. Chiefs halt them, but another penalty for coming in from the side to Cheetahs. Lineout 5m out. Another penalty for offside in front of poles. Willem de Waal makes no mistake. (de Waal 1/1)
8 mins: Cheetahs counter. Ruck on halfway. Chiefs hands in. Penalty to visitors. Du Toit kicks and lineout just outside 22.
5 mins: Chiefs score again. High ball is spilled by Giscard Pieters. Niva Ta’asuso scoops up loose ball and passes to Sitiveni Sivivatu who scores. Donald adds extras. Cheetahs in trouble already. (Donald 2/2)
3 mins: Cheetahs win lineout, but turn over ball. Chiefs show good hands and the defence is sucked in by Sosene Anesi, who offloads inside for new captain Marty Holah. He sends Stephen Donald away fro a score under the sticks. He converts. (Donald 1/1)
1 min: Gaffie du Toit kicks off. Ball is out on full. Scrum to chiefs. Interplay. Lineout to Cheetahs on Chiefs 10m line.
By Andrew Hollely