Cape Town - The Cheetahs left Neath a relieved team that they broke their tour duck to hand their coach Hawies Fourie his first win in charge of the team after taking over from Franco Smith in round four of PRO14.
Their 18-13 win saw them break a run of three away defeats and also gave them their first win away from home this year against an Ospreys side that was condemned to their sixth straight defeat in all competitions.
But the nail-biting nature and the grit and character that the Cheetahs showed to win the game pleased Fourie, especially as they defended four penalty lineout maul drives in the dying seconds to defend their line and claim the victory.
“We are very relieved after the win. The last three to four minutes on our own tryline really had my nerves on end. It feels sometimes as if the referees feel you can’t win away from home. There were a number of strange decisions, especially at the scrums for both sides which I didn’t agree with,” Fourie said after the game.
“Saying that I’m very impressed with the character of the team to keep them from scoring on our own tryline. To stop some of those mauls on our own tryline was impressive and in general our defence was exceptional on the night.
“On attack we had our opportunities but didn’t use them and gave them easy turnover ball at times. They kicked behind us very well to turn us around and gain a lot of territory that gave them chances to score points.
“It wasn’t the prettiest game to watch, but that is how it goes in these conditions this time of year. The fields are wet and it is cold. It isn’t the nicest conditions to play rugby in, but you also need to win ugly at times.
“I’m just thankful that after these four games overseas we could finally get the win. We were unlucky not to beat Connacht on the previous tour. But from this we can build, and we now have a break and play Zebre on 4 January in Italy. We will take a break now and then regroup for that game.
“But we are thankful for these four valuable points.”
The Southern Kings dominated possession and territory in the first half and forced Connacht to make a number of tackles, but couldn’t finish the chances they created as they went down 24-12 to the Irish side in Galway on Saturday night.
Connacht were exceptional as they played the territory game well in the second half to deny the Kings and record a solid victory.
“It was a good performance from us, especially in regards to the fact we got physically stuck in. That is exactly what we wanted. We showed a bit of passion and pride and we knew that Connacht are a dangerous side, especially in the second half,” Kings coach Robbi Kempson said afterwards.
“They kept us well in our own half and played the territory well. In the second half we hardly got out of our half and into theirs and when we did we didn’t use our opportunities. We made some mistakes unfortunately and we let ourselves down with our individual errors. We didn’t convert and that was the difference in the game.”
Kempson said while he was relatively happy despite the result, he felt the team’s attack needed to evolve more if they were to be competitive away from home.
“We are relatively happy, particularly with this performance. It’s never an easy place to play and from my perspective, our defence has grown. There is still more we can do on attack. To come out and play against the Irish sides and to be able to match them physically is something for a travelling side. That for me is a big positive and if we can maintain that level and standard then we can take that towards Edinburgh which will be another tricky one.”
Ospreys 13 Cheetahs 18.
Ospreys - Try: Ma’afu Fia. Conversion: Luke Price. Penalties: Price (2)
Cheetahs - Tries: William Small-Smith, Wilmar Arnoldi. Conversion: Tian Schoman. Penalties: Ruan Pienaar, Schoeman
Connacht 24 Southern Kings 12
Connacht 24 - Tries: Bundee Aki, Finlay Bealham and John Porch (2); Conversions: Conor Fitzgerald (2).
Southern Kings - Tries: Erich Cronje and Scott van Breda; Conversion: Scott van Breda.