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Ken Borland


Free State show they might be the team to chase in the Currie Cup

Posted on February 28, 2022 by Ken

The Free State Cheetahs showed that they might well be the team to chase in the Currie Cup as they downed the previously-unbeaten, two-time defending champions, the Bulls, 38-25 in an all-action display at Loftus Versfeld on Wednesday night.

It was clear from the outset, when the Cheetahs kept the ball alive with offloads and passing through multiple phases, that the visitors were after tries and they scored six of them. Two of them were via hooker Louis van der Westhuizen at the maul, but the rest were slickly worked and the reward for ball-in-hand rugby.

Flank Andisa Ntsila’s grubber through for wing Rosko Specman to score was an early highlight.

A helter skelter first 20 minutes saw the Bulls match the Free Staters on the scoreboard, even if they only scored two tries to the three of the Cheetahs. Nineteen-year-old debutant loose forward Cameron Hanekom was rewarded for following up a botched restart by the visitors for the opening try, and a good long pass out wide by flyhalf Chris Smith led to the second try by wing Stravino Jacobs.

Fullback Clayton Blommetjies cutting through for a try after a lovely angled run by flyhalf Siya Masuku was not enough to prevent Free State actually trailing by one point (19-20) at halftime.

But the Bulls were left chasing the game in the second half as very little went right for them.

They had practically zero lineout platform and a physical, streetwise Cheetahs pack meant the Bulls’ rolling maul had no traction.

Referee Paul Mente was also ruthless in targeting their ill-discipline and both lock Reinhardt Ludwig and prop Lizo Gqoboka were yellow-carded in the final quarter.

The problems started in the 47th minute when wing Siyabonga Novuka was a fraction-of-a-second early in tackling Specman in the air. The Cheetahs set the maul, went wide right and then, when they came back left, there were no defenders left and lock Aidon Davis strolled over for the try.

The visitors built on their lead 12 minutes later when Van der Westhuizen rumbled over for his second try and Masuku then put in a lovely crosskick for Ntsila to score to put Free State 38-20 up and out of sight.

Scorers

Bulls: Tries – Cameron Hanekom, Stravino Jacobs, Siyabonga Novuka. Conversions – Chris Smith (2). Penalty – Smith. Drop goal – Smith.

Free State Cheetahs: Tries – Rosko Specman, Louis van der Westhuizen (2), Clayton Blommetjies, Aidon Davis, Andisa Ntsila. Conversions – Ruan Pienaar (4).

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