Cheetahs climb to fifth after record equalling win
BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa (AFP) –
Central Cheetahs won four consecutive Super Rugby matches for only the second time when they defeated Australian visitors Melbourne Rebels 34-16 Saturday.
The Bloemfontein franchise went into the break 10-6 ahead after wasting several try scoring chances at a wet Free State Stadium in this central city, but ran in four second half tries for a bonus-point triumph.
Victory lifted Cheetahs five places to fifth on the combined standings in the southern hemisphere championship while the troubled Rebels stayed third last after five consecutive losses.
Perennial bottom-half side Cheetahs have been a revelation this season with losses at home to Coastal Sharks and away to title-holders Waikato Chiefs of New Zealand followed by three Australasian tour victories.
And once left wing Raymond Rhule crossed for the second Cheetahs try on 52 minutes, there was little doubt the South Africans were heading for four victories in a row.
Rebels showed a big improvement after a 64-7 hiding from the Sharks in Durban last weekend and the sending home of backs Kurtley Beale and Cooper Vuna following a team bus incident in which captain and No 8 Gareth Delve was hit.
“We committed a lot of errors and made mistakes, but I am thrilled with the victory,” said Cheetahs hooker and skipper Adriaan Strauss after the win before a small holiday crowd.
“Equalling the record of four consecutive wins is tremendous and a tribute to the spirit between the experienced and young players in the squad. The older ones are bringing out the best in the youngsters and vice versa.”
Delve saw hope in defeat: “It was a big improvement from last week and I thought we were in the match for 60 minutes. Cheetahs are a great attacking force.”
Cheetahs fly-half Burton Francis, a last-minute inclusion after Riaan Smit tore a hamstring warming up, kicked an early penalty and Rebels full-back James O’Connor landed two to give his side the lead for the only time.
Cheetahs’ pressure finally paid off four minutes before half-time when full-back Hennie Daniller dived over and Francis converted to give the Bloemfontein outfit a four-point advantage.
After Rhule increased the lead, right wing Willie le Roux, centre Johann Sadie and replacement wing Rayno Benjamin scored tries while Francis kicked three conversions and a penalty from seven shots at goal.
O’Connor converted a soft late try by substitute forward Cadeyrn Neville and also slotted three penalties for the Rebels, who had lock Luke Jones sin binned 12 minutes from time.