Cheetahs sign off with win
The Cheetahs ended their Super Rugby season on a high note with a 42-29 victory over the Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday.
Neither side was able to qualify for the end-of-season play-offs going into the fixture at Loftus Versfeld but that did not stop the Cheetahs running in six tries on their way to a convincing bonus-point win.
Niell Jordaan, Henco Venter, Clayton Blommetjies, Sarel Pretorius, Steven Sykes and Rayno Benjamin crossed the whitewash to earn the Cheetahs only their second Super Rugby victory over their South African rivals, while Daniel Marais was in clinical form from the kicking tee - converting each try on his way to a 12-point match haul.
Tries by Jordaan and Venter saw the Cheetahs hold a 14-7 lead with a quarter of the game gone following Jesse Kriel's early score, to which Jacques-Louis Potgieter added the extras.
The Bulls, without rested Springbok sextet Jan Serfontein, Handre Pollard, Deon Stegmann, Dean Greyling, Victor Matfield and Lappies Labuschagne, hit back when Potgieter slotted a 29th-minute penalty but the respite was temporary as the Cheetahs finished the half with a flourish.
Neat footwork allowed Blommetjies and Pretorius to touch down in the latter stages of the first period to stretch the Cheetahs' lead to 28-10 at half-time.
The Cheetahs picked up where they left off in the second half and Sykes, a first-half replacement for lock Carl Wegner, took advantage of yet more poor defending from the Bulls to score a fifth Cheetahs try.
Marais' conversion meant their advantage stood at 35-10 with half an hour remaining but the Bulls were handed a lifeline of some sorts when Francois Hougaard barged over in the corner and replacement fly-half Tian Schoeman added the extras despite the difficult angle to cut the deficit to 35-17.
A sustained spell of pressure in the Cheetahs' 22 ensued and the Bulls were celebrating once again in the 70th minute when captain Pierre Spies evaded his tackler to crash over the line and Schoeman converted to reduce the Cheetah's advantage to 35-24.
But the Cheetahs hit back immediately with a breakaway try from Benjamin which was converted by Marais and, despite Hougaard crossing for his second and the Bulls' fourth try late on, the visitors saw out the final few minutes to claim their fifth and final win of the season.