Cape Town - Veteran scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar’s influence on the game was praised by his coach Hawies Fourie as the Cheetahs came back from 30-12 down to steal the PRO14 derby against the Southern Kings 31-30 on Saturday.
Pienaar’s appearance off the bench led to the last two tries – both scored by fullback Rhyno Smith, with the second coming from an audacious chip kick over the defence for Smith to pounce, before slotting the crucial conversion that gave the Cheetahs victory.
Afterwards Fourie praised his team’s comeback and Pienaar in particular, saying it was a “really important kick” that gave the team five points and kept their playoff hopes alive.
“I didn’t hope it would be that close but we expected it to be a close game. The previous three games’ average was five, and now it is down to four. It is always a dogfight here, the Kings played really well and we made a lot of mistakes that gave them points, especially in the first half,” Fourie said.
“There was three soft tries we gave them that made the game difficult for us.
“I’ve been with Ruan in Cardiff on the media day and in some of the interviews we were together and some we were separate. They asked him in two of the interviews about kicks he converted in finals under pressure.
“It is great to have a guy with that sort of experience and I trust in him taking that kick, but it is the difference between five log points and two log points. It was a really important kick for us.”
Fourie praised the Kings’ game plan and said the team had progressed this season.
“I feel especially in the first half they dominated the contact on attack and defence, and their lineout functioned well. They had us under pressure for moments in the game. They are definitely making progress, there is a nice vibe in the camp and they will do well going forward,” he added.
In contrast Kings’ coach Robbi Kempson was a disappointed man, and said individual mistakes had cost the team in the end.
“Probably more anger than heartbreak. That is a game we could have, should have, did not win. But individual mistakes cost the team and we have to look at those individual mistakes and make adjustments for the sake of the team that is much more important than the individual,” he explained.
“All their points came from our mistakes. They never created anything with regard to scoring tries, other than the rolling maul, which is boring at best. I think we had the upper hand on defence, physically we were harder than them and you could see that from the number of guys who went off the field.”
Kempson did say he was proud of the side as they defended ferociously on the day.
“The most important thing was the way these guys climbed in on defence, because they are one of the best attacking teams in the competition. The way our boys defended just shows character, they are climbing in, they are playing for the jersey but we are not getting the rub of the green in certain circumstances, but for that you can’t fault the players.
“Losing in the last minute is heart-breaking but from my perspective and the team perspective, they let one get away that they should have comfortably won. They put themselves in a good position to do that, but unfortunately a few errors crept in the latter part and that unfortunately gave us the result we didn’t want.”
The teams will take on each other again this coming Saturday in the return game in Bloemfontein.
- PRO14 media