Cape Town - The Cheetahs got the new year off to a winning start in the PRO14 on Sunday as they held their nerve in a testing encounter against Zebre Rugby Club in Parma for a pleasing 27-12 victory.
The win marked their third victory in their last five matches – a good change of fortunes for coach Franco Smith and his team after a slow start to the season. The win, which was spurred on by a Benhard Janse van Rensburg double, was even sweeter as the side were fresh off a four-week festive season break.
The Southern Kings, meanwhile, struggled to make their presence felt against Edinburgh on Saturday, and in the end went down 38-0.
The Cheetahs got off to a good start against Zebre Rugby Club with Janse van Rensburg and Rabz Maxwane crossing the tryline in the first 22 minutes to take a 12-0 lead.
The hosts, however, hit back with two tries in three minutes in the second quarter thanks to their pace out wide and solid support play, which allowed them to level the scores at 12-12 going into halftime.
The Cheetahs struck first after the break with Janse van Rensburg scoring his second try of the day thanks to the team’s patience on attack and ability to work their way over the advantage line.
Reinach Venter added the bonus point try with four minutes to go, and Daniel Maartens added another three minutes later, with both tries being scored from rolling mauls while the hosts were reduced to 14 men.
While Franco Smith and his charges will be delighted with the 27-12 victory, they will look to sharpen up their finishing this week after missing out on several try-scoring chances close to the tryline.
Edinburgh started their clash against the Southern Kings with a bang as they ran in three tries in the first 10 minutes to build up a comfortable 19-0 lead. The men from Port Elizabeth regained their composure and tried hard to make their presence felt on attack, but mistakes at crucial times cost them, which left them scoreless going into the break.
The hosts, in turn, pushed hard for their bonus-point try on the stroke of halftime, and their efforts paid off after a series of pick-and-go’s to nudge them 26-0 ahead.
Edinburgh added two more tries in the second half, stretching their tally for the match to six, while the Southern Kings were left counting the cost of their struggle to convert their opportunities into points, as they had to settle for a 38-0 defeat.
In the other matches, Benetton pipped the Glasgow Warriors 20-17 in Treviso, Ospreys defeated the Cardiff Blues 20-11 in Swansea, Leinster registered a comprehensive 40-7 win against Ulster in Dublin, the Scarlets beat the Dragons 22-13 in Llanelli and Connacht went down 31-24 against Munster in Galway.
Tries: Edoardo Padovani, Giulio Bisegni
Conversion: Carlo Canna
Tries: Benhard Janse van Rensburg (2), Sibahle Maxwane, Reinach Venter, Daniel Maartens
Conversion: Tian Schoeman
15 Malcolm Jaer, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 Nico Lee, 11 Rabz Maxwane, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Tian Meyer (Captain), 8 Daniel Maartens, 7 Junior Pokomela, 6 Gerhard Olivier, 5 JP du Preez, 4 Justin Basson, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Ox Nche
Substitutes: 16 Reinach Venter, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Luan de Bruin, 19 Sintu Manjezi, 20 Walt Steenkamp, 21 Abongile Nonkontwana, 22 Rudy Paige, 23 Louis Fouche