The Cheetahs finished their campaign with a 59-10 drubbing of the Lions in Welkom on Saturday.
After triumphs against the Blues and Force over the last fortnight, the Cheetahs continued their winning form and secured their first hat-trick of victories in Super Rugby in a rare visit to the northern Free State town.
It wasn’t the prettiest of displays, but it was convincing enough to down an out-of sorts Lions team who committed too many elementary errors. The visitors were guilty of poor handling and ball retention, an inability to put more than five phases together and lack of structure on attack and defence. The Cheetahs also curtailed the Lions’ quality of possession as they dominated the set-pieces and at the breakdowns.
This made it an exhibition-like session for the hosts as they were allowed to attack in free flow. It only took five minutes for the Cheetahs to settle and open the scoring through wing Bjorn Basson’s chip and chase try.
Moments later, scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius found himself dragged into a driving maul, but he found the ball and drove over for the Cheetahs’ second. Pivot Naas Olivier added the extras. Opposite number Herkie Kruger opened the Lions’ tally with a penalty, but from then on the floodgates opened for the hosts.
In addition to frequent mistakes, the Lions suffered a big blow as captain Wikus van Heerden cried off the field with a hand injury. The Cheetahs went on to pick up their four-try bonus point by the first quarter. With the confidence of a commanding lead, the Cheetahs began attacking from deep and exposed the Lions by breaking tackles and finding gaps in latter’s defensive lines.
Pretorius and Basson finished their doubles while lock Barend Pieterse and centre Corne Uys also crossed the chalk. By the end of the first half, the Cheetahs found themselves 38-3 up. Game over.
Replacement wing Michael Killian scored early in the second stanza, but this did not halt the Cheetahs’ attacking intentions. They turned down kickable penalties at goal and used quick penalty taps and lineouts as a platform to the try-line.
Despite failing to convert several scoring opportunities, fullback Hennie Daniller grabbed a brace and replacement prop Coenie Oosthuizen burst through to continue the Cheetahs’ onslaught and seal the convincing win.
The victory sees the Cheetahs jump ahead of the Chiefs in 10th place on the log with a better points difference. To worsen matters for the Lions, the loss confirmed their campaign the worst ever by a team. It was the most defeats (13) for a franchise in one season while they also had the worst points difference points ever (-315). Saru will have to review this situation as this match was evidence that the Lions do not deserve a place in Super Rugby.
By Gareth Duncan