GARETH DUNCAN reports on the Cheetahs’ unconvincing 17-13 win over the Force in Bloemfontein.
A win is a win, but head coach Naka Drotske won’t be raving about his team’s performance against the errant Force.
They should’ve cruised to victory as the visitors’ were ill-disciplined, starved of possession and played in their own territory for most parts of the match. However, the men from Bloemfontein uncharacteristically lacked accuracy and composure on attack. They showed flashes of elusiveness and broke the Force defence on numerous occasions, but their poor finishing cost them.
Flyhalf Sias Ebersohn also disappointed from the kicking tee, missing three of his six goal attempts. It’s clear that injured pivot Johan Goosen is a major loss as he spearheaded the team effectively and provided a reliable boot. Drotske will be hoping that Ebersohn rediscovers the magic that he showcased in 2011 as the player is struggling with form and confidence.
With an evenly-contested battle between the heavies up front, the first half was a kicking contest as all the points were scored via penalties. Ebersohn and flyhalf David Harvey traded goal kicks before scrumhalf Tewis de Bruyn added a late three-pointer to give the Cheetahs a 9-6 half-time lead.
The Force did cross the chalk during the opening 40 through wing Napolioni Nalaga, but the try was disallowed after referee Stu Berry was informed by his assistant about foul play from tighthead prop Salesi Ma’afu on eighthman Philip van der Walt earlier in the move.
Shortly after the restart, the Force grabbed a try against the run of play. Centre Winston Stanley charged down fullback Hennie Daniller’s clearance and collected the loose ball for an easy run to the whitewash.
It wasn’t long before the Cheetahs regained the lead as they camped inside the tourist’s red zone thereafter. After being frustrated by their own poor decision-making and the Force’s disobedience on defence, the home side finally scored their try when skipper Adriaan Strauss dived over in the corner. Ebersohn missed the following conversion, but nailed a long-range penalty to secure his side a four-point buffer.
Both teams had scoring opportunities in the final quarter, but untidy play saw them fail to add to their tallies. The Cheetahs were able to hold on for a much-needed win, but one they won’t be proud of. The Stormers will beat them in Cape Town next weekend if they deliver a similar display.