Sarel Pretorius scored twice and Johan Goosen kicked 21 points in a stunning Cheetahs triumph in Invercargill.
The Cheetahs beat the Highlanders 36-19 after leading 30-7 at half time.
Loose forward Lappies Labuschagne’s star shone the brightest on a night in which every one of the visitors had a glow about their performance. Labuschagne was immense on defence, forceful on attack and dominant in everything he did.
The try count was shared at three each but it is misleading in terms of a contest in which the Cheetahs gave a lesson to the hosts in how the game is meant to be played.
The Highlanders were guilty of playing too laterally but that was a consequence of being manhandled in the collisions whenever one of their players tried the direct route.
This looked like men against boys and the Cheetahs seemed to know it. Goosen played the game in the right areas, kicked his penalties and was true to any counter attacking opportunity.
There was nothing fortunate about the Cheetahs two intercept tries. They were a result of brutal defence and this defence was turned into attack by way of intercepts and turnovers. The Highlanders attack made errors because of the pressure of the defence.
The turnaround was amazing, given the Cheetahs were demolished 45-3 in Hamilton a week ago, but the Highlanders are not in the same class of the Chiefs. The hosts’ All Blacks looked old and lethargic and the pack simply got punished for being physically inferior.
Highlanders winger Kade Poki got a hattrick but it had no impact on the result because the Cheetahs were always two scores ahead whenever he scored.
Springbok flanker Heinrich Brussouw completed his comeback to Super Rugby with an effective 30 minute cameo, in which he won turnovers and tormented the home team at the breakdown area.
By Richard Ferguson