The Waratahs outmuscled the Cheetahs up front to lay the platform for a 18-10 win in Bloemfontein.
The Cheetahs will count themselves fortunate they only trailed 8-0 at the break. The Tahs embarrassed them at scrum-time and contested cleverly at the lineout which prevented the hosts from playing off the front foot. The Tahs also blew several try-scoring opportunities through unforced handling errors in the opening quarter, showpony Lote Tuqiri beating two defenders on the cutback and then dropping the ball cold.
Kurtley Beale’s move to the midfield proved inspired, as he not only supplied the visitors with a further kicking option but caused problems for the Cheetahs’ defence. Twice Beale got his hands through the tackle to feed a support runner, and the second touch proved the spark for the Tahs’ first try. The Cheetahs’ line finally succumbed when Lachie Turner barged over.
Heinrich Brussow had another outstanding game on defence and at the breakdown, but an off-the-ball hit gave Daniel Halangahu an opportunity to extend the lead. The Tahs slotted the penalty to see the visitors 8-0 ahead at half-time.
The Tahs played the smarter territorial game but continued to cough up possession when in promising positions. Naas Olivier goaled a fantastic penalty in the 46th minute to get his team on the board and this seemed to bring the Cheetahs to life.
But lack of intent was never their shortcoming. The Tahs continued to steal ball off their lineout and the visiting scrum shoved them back relentlessly. Phil Waugh also made some important pilfers for the Tahs off the deck to deny the Cheetahs any momentum.
Halangahu missed a penalty, but it hardly mattered when Tom Carter exploited the shaky outside defence for the umpteenth time. Replacement Luke Burgess was on hand to finish, and in the context of the game, a 12-point lead looked unassailable with 21 minutes to play.
Halangahu made no mistake with a subsequent penalty, a goal that put the result beyond doubt. JW Jonker rounded off some smart interplay to score the hosts’ only try, but it still left the Cheetahs eight points shy.
The four points keeps the Waratahs in the play-off hunt, but based on this performance, they’re unlikely to topple any of the major contenders.
By Jon Cardinelli