GARETH DUNCAN reports on the Cheetahs’ 26-5 win over the Lions in Bloemfontein.
This fixture was vital for both teams – the Cheetahs were confident of building on their most successful overseas tour while the Lions were desperate to break their four-match losing streak. And with the uncertainty of the solution that will be taken to accommodate the Southern Kings next season, all local franchises will want to avoid that wooden spoon spot in the South African conference as a relegation method is the most likely route to be taken.
The Cheetahs rose to the occasion and delivered a strong first-half performance, which laid the platform for this victory. It’s massive boost for the Bloemfontein franchise as they gain ground on the stumbling Sharks in the standings, while the lousy Lions plummet closer to a potential (and likely) Super Rugby exit.
Flyhalf Johan Goosen and outside centre Robert Ebersohn were key in the Cheetahs’ surge in the opening 40. The 19-year-old Goosen continued his dependable role with the boot, kicking three penalties and two conversions for a personal haul of 13 points. He also reached his first 100 Super Rugby points with a 50m penalty in the process.
Ebersohn grabbed a brace as the home side capitalised on the Lions’ defensive lapse and errors in their own territory. Ebersohn’s first came after a poor clearance from wing Deon van Rensburg, and from the resulting breakdown, the ball was spread wide and the former beat four defenders to dive over. The Cheetahs No 13 completed his double after being put through by speedster Willie le Roux.
The Lions had several opportunities to cut the deficit, but poor interplay and decision making cost them. In the final five minutes of the first stanza, they camped inside the Cheetahs’ red zone. They came up against a strong defence and failed to cross the chalk, despite being awarded four penalties 5m from the chalk. There’s a clear need for some technical change to the Jozi team’s game plan, and John Mitchell and his coaching staff need to work on this.
The second half was a closer contest, as the Cheetahs’ were not as sharp and became fatigued. The Lions managed to grab a consolation try through Cobus Grobbelaar, but reserve flyhalf Sias Ebersohn’s three-pointer was enough to seal the win.