The Toyota Free State Cheetahs were left disappointed with their performance on Friday evening in Bloemfontein following a 34-12 defeat to the Blue Bulls in the Currie Cup.
For the Cheetahs the disappointment was not so much in the loss itself, but more so in the way that it happened.
The Cheetahs started the game like a house on fire and it took just four minutes for the hooker, Joseph Dweba, to power over for a converted try.
In what was a rather scrappy game at the Toyota Stadium, the first half provided for very little entertainment, and the only other highlight in the first 40 minutes was Manie Libbok’s converted try in the 14th minute to see the game deadlocked at 14-14 at the break.
The Cheetahs did have Nico Lee go over for a try, however, the TMO ruled that William Small-Smith stepped on the touchline before off-loading the ball.
In the second half the Cheetahs nearly took the lead within the first four minutes, however, this time the other winger, Rabs Maxwane, stepped on the touchline before scoring in the corner.
That mattered very little as the replacement scrumhalf, Shaun Venter, dotted down a few minutes later with a great individual try to regain the lead.
Libbok slotted a penalty in the 51st minute to make it a two-point ball-game, but the turning point in the game came in the 55th minute when the Cheetahs conceded a penalty try.
From there on out it was all the Bulls with Libbok slotting a second penalty, and Jade Stighling and Divan Rossouw crossing the white-wash to put the game out of reach.
With the single round format of the competition, this has put immense pressure on the Cheetahs to perform in their remaining games in order to reach the play-offs.
The Director of Rugby at the Cheetahs, Franco Smith, said that the fact that they lost a home was the biggest disappointment.
“That was the biggest disappointment, the fact that it was a home game. This means that we have to pick up points in an away game now, which will be very important.
“There is a lot of expectation around the team and we felt that. Before the game, the players were all very nervous and that is very unlike us.
“I think because it is a short competition the players don’t want to make a mistake and they don’t want to fail.”
The Cheetahs hit the road next week where they will face Western Province at Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday. This will be the last game that they will have the full squad at their disposal. From the end of the month, they will also be competing in the Guinness Pro14.
Toyota Free State Cheetahs: Tries – Joseph Dweba, Shaun Venter Conv. – Tian Schoeman
Blue Bulls: Tries – Manie Libbok, Penalty try, Jade Stighling, Divan Rossouw Conv. – Libbok 3 Pen. – Libbok 2. – MORGAN PIEK