East London - A disappointingly small crowd witnessed the pre-season friendly between the Southern Kings and the Cheetahs at Buffalo City Stadium on Saturday.
The Cheetahs won 33-20, after the Kings led 20-14 at half-time.
The Southern Kings side was made up of Border and South Western Districts players.
There was a degree of rustiness in both sides, with the Cheetahs in particular dropping vital passes and knocking on when close to scoring while there were plenty of forward passes as well.
The Kings were certainly not outclassed and showed no nervousness in opposing their experienced, battle-hardened Super Rugby opponents. They led 20-14 at half-time, with some superb goal-kicking by fullback Elrich van Vuuren, who banged over two long-range penalties, and converted both tries scored by left wing Vuyo Mboto, for a personal tally of 10 points.
Springbok Ashley Johnson was prominent on attack with a run down the left wing, but was responsible for the first penalty some 50 metres out when he high-tackled a Southern Kings player which cost his side three points. Later in the half, after a full line movement, Johnson dropped a vital pass with the Kings’ try-line at his mercy and two men on his outside. In frustration, he kicked the ball out of play. It was Johnson who gave away another penalty when he held onto the ball in a tackle.
Halfway through the first half, Cheetahs centre Robert Ebersohn broke nicely on the left side and passed to wing Rocco Jansen who scored about eight metres from the left post and flyhalf Johan Goosen converted.
It was about this time that Kings’ scrumhalf Ntando Kebe was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle.
Just before half-time Cheetahs scrumhalf Piet van Zyl and Johnson combined well with some clever inter-passing and Van Zyl barged over for a try which Goosen again converted to make the score 20-14.
The second half started quietly with frequent stops for knocks and minor repairs and after 18 minutes Robert Ebersohn broke away, dodged a couple of inept tackles and dived over about 10 metres to the right of the posts. Goosen converted and the Cheetahs took the lead for the first time in the match, the score being 21-20.
Some scrappy play then ensued and some hard tackling and defensive play by both sides kept the scoring down.
Cheetahs skipper Adriaan Strauss had an excellent game, leading from the front and always in the thick of things, and he kept the game open by opting to run for penalties rather than kick for goal.
The Southern Kings failed to add to their half-time score while the Cheetahs were able to run in another two tries - scored by Sias Ebersohn and Willy le Roux. Sias Ebersohn missed one conversion but was successful with one.
Southern Kings: Tries Vuyo Mboto (2); penalties Elrich van Vuuren (2). Conversions: Van Vuuren (2).
Cheetahs: Tries: Rocco Jansen, Piet van Zyl, Robert Ebersohn, Sias Ebersohn, Willy le Roux. Conversions: Robert Ebersohn (3), Sias Ebersohn (1).