Cheetahs win Bloem thriller
Bloemfontein - Wing Willie le Roux scored a brilliant try to lift the Cheetahs to a 35-34 victory over the Waratahs in a nail-biting Super Rugby clash on Saturday.
Le Roux's 57th-minute try, which quickly followed a try by prop WP Nel, came after the Cheetahs attacked from the restart, replacement flyhalf Sias Ebersohn chipping over the defence and Le Roux gathering and kicking again before reclaiming the ball and dashing over the tryline.
The Waratahs, who led 34-21 in the 48th minute after scoring four tries in the first half, can look back on a disappointing second half and their failure to convert two late chances to claim victory.
Flyhalf Berrick Barnes was short with an angled 55-metre penalty in the 76th minute and, as regular time came to an end, they had a maul inside the Cheetahs 22 but they could not get the ball out to Barnes for a drop goal after great work by Cheetahs loose forwards Ashley Johnson and Heinrich Brussow.
The Waratahs took advantage of 18 missed tackles in the first half and particularly poor defence around the fringes to rush to the four-try bonus point in 33 minutes.
Flank Dave Dennis scored the first try in the fourth minute when he pounced on a loose ball behind the tryline and he set up the second for lock Sitaleki Timani.
The Cheetahs drew level at 14-14 with two tries in four minutes, the first coming from a wonderfully-worked move off a lineout finished off by scrumhalf Piet van Zyl.
Le Roux's brilliant attacking running then started and finished a move in the 19th minute with flyhalf Riaan Smit's second successful conversion tying the scores.
The Waratahs edged ahead again in the 22nd minute when Brendan McKibbin kicked a penalty after the Cheetahs took him out at a ruck, but soon afterwards his pass was intercepted by hooker Adriaan Strauss and the Cheetahs captain ran in a try from halfway.
The Waratahs scored twice late in the first half, wing Drew Mitchell showing great skill to keep a kick in play and centre Rob Horne finishing the move off with a 45-metre run to the tryline and Timani scored his second try after good work by fullback Bernard Foley and No 8 Wycliff Palu.
Nel went low and hard to score for the Free Staters in the 54th minute before Le Roux floored the Waratahs with another moment of brilliance.
His moment of inspiration earned the Cheetahs their fifth win of the season, the most they have achieved in a Super Rugby campaign.
The Cheetahs picked up a full-house of five points for their victory, but stayed fourth in the South African Conference. They did however move up to 10th in the Combined standings.
The Waratahs picked up two points for scoring four tries or more as well as losing by seven or fewer points. They leap-frogged the Melbourne Rebels into third place in the Australian Conference, but remained 11th in the Overall log.
In next weekend's Round 15 action, the Cheetahs enjoy a bye, while the Waratahs host the Hurricanes in Sydney.
15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Rocco Jansen, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Willie le Roux, 10 Riaan Smit, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Ashley Johnson, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Andries Ferreira, 4 Izak van der Westhuizen, 3 WP Nel, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Coenie Oosthuizen
Substitutes: 16 Hercu Liebenberg, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Francois Uys, 19 Justin Downey, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 Philip Snyman
15. Bernard Foley, 14. Tom Kingston, 13. Rob Horne, 12. Adam Ashley-Cooper, 11. Drew Mitchell, 10. Berrick Barnes, 9. Brendan McKibbin, 8. Wycliff Palu, 7. Chris Alcock, 6. Dave Dennis, 5. Kane Douglas, 4. Sitaleki Timani, 3. Sekope Kepu, 2. Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1. Benn Robinson (captain)
Substitutes: 16. John Ulugia, 17. Jeremy Tilse, 18. Richard Stanford, 19. Lopeti Timani, 20. Sarel Pretorius, 21. Daniel Halangahu, 22. Tom Carter