Cheetahs struggle past Sunwolves
The Toyota Cheetahs made heavy work of their Vodacom Super Rugby match against the Sunwolves, creeping home 38-31 in rather unimpressive fashion in Bloemfontein on Saturday night.
While the Sunwolves have never won a match away from home (conceding an average of 52 points before this match) and have lost comprehensively in their own two games at home, they were a different animal in Bloemfontein. They scored first and had the Cheetahs sweating throughout the game for the win.
In fact, the Sunwolves would have kicked themselves for not winning this game, as they were good value against a Cheetahs side which was loose and unfocused, a far cry from their the team that beat the Vodacom Bulls a week earlier.
The Japanese side need to be complimented for their form as they confounded all their critics, and matched the Cheetahs' four tries with the same number of their own.
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Too often the Cheetahs were too lax and it was only when the Sunwolves conceded a yellow card for repeated infringements that the Cheetahs moved into a lead, which they held onto until the end.
While the Cheetahs had some injuries before the game, they will be unhappy with their effort as they almost scored a century against the same team last year at the same venue.
The start gave the Sunwolves the impetus they needed as the Cheetahs failed to collect the kickoff, and the Sunwolves surged forward, with winger Shota Emi going over before a minute was up.
It was all the Sunwolves for the opening 13 minutes, and they could easily have scored twice more, but the Cheetahs managed to hold them off and keep them from crossing the tryline a second time.
In their first foray into the Japanese team's half, the Cheetahs found the going rather easy, with captain Torsten van Jaarsveld bursting through the middle to score untouched in what looked to be the easiest of tries.
Fred Zeilinga added the conversion and a penalty to put the Cheetahs up by three points, but it didn’t take long before Sunwolves flyhalf Hayden Cripps found some space and danced his way through the defence to score their second try, and retake the lead.
The Cheetahs almost got it back but Clinton Swart lost the ball going over the line, before Zeilinga pulled back another three points with the boot.
Another defensive lapse gave easy points to the Cheetahs as Tian Meyer put Oupa Mohoje into a hole and the flanker galloped in for the second try for the home side.
Cripps grabbed another three points back to put his side three behind at the break with the Cheetahs leading 20-17.
Zeilinga added a penalty early in the second half before Swart finally crossed the line to make up for his earlier knock, and it looked as if they could run away with the game after gaining some momentum.
But a quick try – the first of two by Kenki Fukuoka – showed the Sunwolves were not in a giving mood, and the winger’s second put his side into a surprising lead on the hour mark as he burst through the middle to put them one point ahead.
Then came the yellow card, and the Sunwolves could not cope with being a man down, as the Cheetahs crossed the line five minutes into that period with Rayno Benjamin going in at the corner.
Zeilinga added another penalty to push the margin to seven, and the Sunwolves simply found no way to come back into the game.
The Cheetahs grabbed their second consecutive win of the tournament, but will be the first to admit it was nowhere near the standard they had the week before, nor the standard they will need when they head to Argentina next weekend to face the Jaguares.
Toyota Cheetahs - tries: Torsten van Jaarsveld, Oupa Mohoje, Clinton Swart, Rayno Benjamin. Conversions: Fred Zeilinga (4). Penalties: Zeilinga (4)
Sunwolves - tries: Shota Emi, Hayden Cripps, Kenki Fukuoka (2). Conversions: Cripps (2), Jamie-Jerry Taulagi. Penalty: Cripps