Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town - Without even playing, the Cheetahs have enjoyed
a productive Friday in Super Rugby.
Both non-South African matches played on the day produced
favourable outcomes for the Bloemfontein-based side’s quest to make the
six-team playoffs cut for the first time.
The Cheetahs play a derby against the Kings in Port
Elizabeth on Saturday (15:00), and will do so knowing that there is a
possibility they could climb as many as three notches to fourth on the 2013
overall table if they can earn a full house of five points at Nelson Mandela
That scenario would also require labouring compatriots the
Stormers knocking over the Reds at Newlands, and the Brumbies getting their
mojo back by beating the Blues away in an earlier Saturday fixture.
But whether those particular results go their way or not,
Naka Drotske and company will have taken massive heart from the Friday results,
which saw fellow “mid-table” challengers the Crusaders and Waratahs beaten by
the Chiefs and Rebels respectively.
In the case of the Australian derby, the side from Melbourne
earned their maiden triumph (24-22) over the more highly-touted visitors from
Sydney: as one local commentator put it, “the geeks have finally got one over
It was a major blow to the Waratahs’ now rapidly-fading
hopes of cracking the finals series.
The Cheetahs would also have been elated by the Crusaders
crashing to high-riding fellow-New Zealanders the Chiefs (28-19) in a Hamilton
nail-biter that could have gone either way until Aaron Cruden put over a killer
penalty at the death to even take away a losing bonus point from the seven-time
That outcome meant that the ‘Saders stayed rooted to fifth
overall with 42 points from 12 matches, just two ahead of the Cheetahs who will
complete their own 13th fixture against the Kings and of course have
every intention of leapfrogging the Cantabrians.
Adriaan Strauss’s men enter the clash knowing that they won
the first-round fixture against the Kings 26-12.
Although there is still plenty of room for ding-dong
movement both in overall and conference terms, the Cheetahs have another advantage
over the Crusaders (no remaining “off” weeks) in that they will bank four
automatic bye points on the last day of ordinary season, when they are the only
side not playing.
Friday’s Waikato Stadium classic was less good news for the
SA conference-leading Bulls: they stayed second overall going into Saturday’s
action and would have preferred a Crusaders victory.
Instead the Chiefs have stretched their lead to six points
over the Loftus-based team, albeit having played two extra matches going into Saturday.
It increases the onus on the Bulls to at least win their
tricky Durban encounter on Saturday with the Sharks (19:10), thus closing the
gap to either one or two points.
The Chiefs have a bye next weekend, so armed with those
extra four points will go into the June layoff period - for the Test-match
window - at the top of the overall pile, come what may.
15. SP Marais, 14. Siyanda Grey, 13. Ronnie Cooke, 12. Andries Strauss, 11. Marcello Sampson, 10. Demetri Catrakilis, 9. Shaun Venter, 8. Cornell du Preez, 7. Luke Watson (captain), 6. Wimpie van der Walt, 5. David Bulbring, 4. Steven Sykes, 3. Kevin Buys, 2. Bandise Maku, 1. Schalk Ferreira
Substitutes: 16 Virgile Lacombe, 17 Grant Kemp, 18 Rynier Bernardo, 19 Jacques Engelbrecht, 20 Nicolas Vergallo, 21 Shane Gates, 22 George Whitehead.
15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Ryno Benjamin, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Willie le Roux, 10 Elgar Watts, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Coenie Oosthuizen
Substitutes: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Rynhardt Landman, 19 Boom Prinsloo, 20 Sarel Pretorius, 21 Riaan Smit, 22 Raymond Rhule
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