The Blues cruised to a comfortable 46-12 win over an insipid Cheetahs outfit in Albany.
The Cheetahs mixed the rabid with the reckless in the opening quarter, their fervent desire often nullified by their patent lack of skill and accuracy. Apart from a number of unnecessary infringements at the breakdown, their defence was woeful, and it was several successive lapses that allowed Anthony Tuitavake to coast through after just five minutes.
The visitors retained their penchant for the reckless two minutes later when flanker Wayne van Heerden was sent to the sin bin. Some shocking tackling again saw the Blues into an ominous position, and when Michael Hobbs delivered the try-scoring pass, Van Heerden nailed the recipient early and was duly carded.
The Blues did well at the lineout, and even without Tony Woodcock were remarkably dominant in the scrum. Van Heerden’s absence was significant in the second try where the Blues scrum forced a turnover. Scrumhalf Taniela Moa was awake to the opportunity and fed blindside Chris Lowrey. With their own blindside in the bin, the Cheetahs could only watch as Lowrey ran through unopposed.
At 17-0 to the good, the Blues failed to put the boot in. They had the opportunities, mostly in broken play, but poor decision-making and handling often saw ball go to ground. Isaia Toeava made a incisive break but couldn’t find a support runner with his pass, Ali Williams intercepted a Cheetahs ball and ran 40m before being hauled in while Jimmy Gopperth manufactured a great gap but couldn’t find Joe Rokocoko with the offload.
After a sustained period in possession, the Cheetahs finally gained some reprieve through centre Corne Uys. The Cheetahs’ attack were far too lateral but an inside ball by Meyer Bosman opened the Blues up and allowed lock David de Villiers to scoot through. De Villiers floated a pass overhead to find Uys and after 37 minutes, the Cheetahs were on the scoreboard.
The Cheetahs were outdone in the tight, the loose and even in the kicking department. Gopperth had a fine game with the boot, his great goal-kicking complemented by his pin-point tactical probing. The Blues pivot also orchestrated an early score in the second half, Toeava rounding off a fabulous interchange by the Blues backs.
The bonus-point try arrived in the 45th minute with Jerome Kaino shovelling the ball to Taniela Moa. The visitors were guilty of poor communication on defence, replacement Kabamba Floors the villain on his own line.
As the weather worsened, so did the standard of play with both sides finding it hard to grip the ball. Blues lock Kurtis Haiu also slipped in a tackle attempt hitting the Cheetahs player high, an action that resulted in a yellow card.
But the incompetence of the Cheetahs was highlighted by their inability to make the advantage tell. Fabian Juries added some attacking spark to the backline and looked to have created a fine individual try with a chip and chase, but knocked on in attempting to place the ball. The Blues returned to their full compliment unscathed.
The Blues secured the bonus point, but their display in the final half hour was nothing to be proud of. They scored two more tries through reserves Jamie Helleur and Chris Smylie, but they should have buried this Cheetahs side by 60-plus.
The visitors looked to have a consolation try in the 79th minute, but replays confirmed Sarel Pretorius lost the ball over the goalline. While their skills were in the large part wanting, you couldn’t fault them for spirit and a determined effort finally saw Floors grab their second try on the hooter.
The Cheetahs remain rooted to the foot of the Super 14 table and look likely to finish their overseas tour without a win. On current form, you wouldn’t expect them to do much better in Bloemfontein.
By Jon Cardinelli