Ruan Pienaar master-minded a Toyota Cheetahs bonus-point 38-21 (halftime 11-0) Carling Currie Cup victory over a tired and lackluster DHL Wester Province at the Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein on Wednesday evening.
The veteran Springbok utility back scored a try, two conversions and four penalties for a personal points tally of 21 to hand the Cheetahs just their second victory of the Currie Cup campaign but it was the lacklustre performance from the visitors that will be the biggest talking point of the match.
Province dominated the opening exchanges despite a first minute try from right wing Duncan Saal after some good passing from David Brits and Jeandre Rudolph, set the winger in motion for the opening score.
The men from Cape Town dominated possession and territory in the opening 20 minutes but failed to cross the line or press their advantage with the Cheetahs showing some determined defensive patterns. WP flyhalf Tim Swiel, normally accurate with the boot, missed two early penalties before Pienaar landed two of his own to leave the home side 11-0 up at the break.
Province’s halfback pair of Godlin Masimla and Swiel were slow and static, leaving the visitors lacklustre in attack despite some bright movements from fullback Sergeal Petersen, who looked to try and create space at every given opportunity.
Province though found some attacking flare at the start of the second stanza when veteran centre, Juan de Jongh powered his way through some tackles before flanker Marcel Theunissen offloaded to storming No 8 Evan Roos, who scored the opening try for the visitors, and with Swiel converting, left Province just four points adrift.
However, the Cheetahshit back straight from the kick-off as former WP flyhalf Brandon Thompson placed a perfect cross-kick into the path of centre Brits who beat Petersen to score next to the posts, giving Pienaar the easiest of conversions.
Just minutes later and the Cheetahs extended their lead with their third try, this time with fullback Clayton Blommetjies dancing his way through the Western Province defence, to offload to Pienaar on his inside with the former Bok going over untouched under the poles.
Pienaar converted his own try to take the home side into an 18-point advantage just 10 minutes after the restart.
It looked as thought the try-floodgates would open up and that Province had finally found their grove, with Roos again the instrument of destruction. The feisty No 8 fought his way through two tackles to go over for his second try to bring Province within 11 points after Swiel converted, but that was the last Province would taste until the final hooter.
Pienaar landed two more penalties to take the Cheetahs 17-points clear with only five minutes left on the clock, only for Cohen Jasper to rub salt into the blue-and-white hoops’ wound with the bonus-point try two minutes from the end. The left-winger had just too much pace for the kick ahead, scoring in the corner with replacement flyhalf Reinhardt Fortuin adding the extra points.
Province though did not give up and were rewarded for their efforts after the hooter sounded and replacement scrumhalf Tom Bursay took a quick-tap and barge over next to the poles with replacement flyhalf Lee-Marvin Mazibuko ending the match with his conversion.
The Cheetahs started the match bottom of the Currie Cup log and despite not moving up a place, closed the gap to the second-from-bottom Lions to just a single point with both teams having played four games. Province remain just three points ahead of the Free Staters having played a game more and sit just outside the top four.
Toyota Cheetahs – Tries: Duncan Saal, David Brits, Ruan Pienaar, Cohen Jasper; Conversions: Pienaar (2), Reinhardt Fortuin; Penalties: Pineaar (4).
DHL Western Province – Tries: Evan Roos (2), Thomas Bursay; Conversions: Tim Swiel (2), Lee-Marvin Mazibuko.