Courageous Cheetahs conquer Crusaders

GARETH DUNCAN watched Sias and Robert Ebersohn score 28 of the Cheetahs’ points in their 33-20 victory over the Crusaders in Bloemfontein.

Many will remember the twin brothers excelling for Grey College at schoolboy level and for the Free State junior teams and Baby Boks after school. A lot of things were expected from the Ebersohn bros since then, and while it did take longer than most expected, they finally lived up to their hype in this outstanding win.

Robert Ebersohn scored the Cheetahs’ first try after a Sarel Pretorius break while Sias Ebersohn finished off a 60m dash down the touchline and kicked 16 points via four penalties and three conversions, only missing one goal attempt. Ashley Johnson’s late try was enough to seal a 13-point win against a depleted, yet decent, Crusaders team – a second triumph over the seven-time champions in three years.

The men from Christchurch entered this game with an under strength team as they lost five backs to injury, like Israel Dagg, Andy Ellis and Sean Maitland, after their win over the Stormers at Newlands last weekend. The loss of Brad Thorn and Sam Whitelock was also felt during the lineout and forwards battle. The Crusaders were boosted by the returns of Richie McCaw and Dan Carter, but the duo couldn’t galvanise their injury-hit team.

Carter displayed a great first half showing, scoring a try and kicking a penalty and two conversions. Zac Guildford dotted down too after receiving a Robbie Freuan offload, securing the visitors a 17-16 lead at half-time. But the Crusaders were dealt a double blow when the All Blacks flyhalf was taken off early in the second half, adding to the loss of Sonny Bill Williams, who had little effect in the match and exited at half-time with a knee injury.

The hosts also lost talisman Heinrich Brussow to a hamstring injury at the end of the first quarter, but it wasn’t a major setback as the Cheetahs pack dominated the tackle point for most parts of the match and McCaw was off the pace in only his second match of the season.

Without Carter, Williams and hardly any influence from McCaw, the Crusaders crumbled and the Cheetahs held the ascendancy after the break. The latter’s defence has been their downfall earlier this year, but they showcased a strong guard. With an impressive attacking game, they produced a great all-round performance. The visitors could only add a Matt Berquist penalty after the restart as the hosts rallied to victory with two second-half tries and Sias Ebersohn’s boot.

Despite their three-match winning streak, it’s still unlikely that the Cheetahs that will qualify for the play-offs, but the Crusaders’ defeat will have an influence on what happens in the top six spots on the table. The result will benefit the Sharks, Highlanders and Bulls with only five rounds left in the league stage of the tournament.

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