The Toyota Cheetahs have opened their account in the 2021 Currie Cup following a hard-fought and scrappy win over the Pumas in Bloemfontein on Friday evening.
The Pumas dominated the proceedings in the first half the game at the Toyota Stadium to lead by 6-3 at half-time thanks to two penalties by the flyhalf, Eddie Fouché, while Ruan Pienaar slotted a penalty for the Cheetahs.
In the second half the Cheetahs were outstanding in their defence and this put pressure on the visitors from the Lowveld, forcing them into mistakes. This led to Ruan Pienaar scoring the first try of the match, which he converted, while the 20-year-old debutant, Lesley Botha, scored the team’s other try.
This would have no doubt been an emotional moment for Botha, as his father, Chris, passed away on 24 May. This was just six days before his 48th birthday. Lesley had turned 20 just three days before his birthday.
The Pumas did manage to comeback at the Cheetahs with a penalty and a penalty try, but the team from Bloemfontein showed a lot of character to hold off a determined Pumas team, who would have gone to the top of the log with a win.
Following the match, Pienaar lauded the team’s character to grind to the win. “A lot of character and a lot of heart shown. That is what this province is about.
“We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs over the last 12 to 15 months, so it was great to get a win.
“It’s a much better feeling than the loss we had against the Griquas. It was a really good Pumas team, so, very proud and grateful for the win.”
Meanwhile, the Cheetahs will travel to Johannesburg this week to face the Lions at Ellis Park. The good news for the Cheetahs is that they have all recovered from Covid-19 and at the time of print there were no new cases. The head coach, Hawies Fourie, is also back with the team after he had to self-isolate for quite a lengthy spell.
Fourie told Bloemfontein Courant that they have a near full-strength squad at their disposal for this week’s game.
“We have a near fully fit squad to select from and they guys have got a lot of confidence after this past weekend’s game against the Pumas.
“I’m looking forward to the Lions game and to see how we can manage that one.
“It will be great to get an away game as well, because we couldn’t play against the Bulls at home. We lost out on that opportunity and we also lost that first game against the Griquas.”
The Lions also had their game against the Sharks cancelled last week as the team from Durban played against the British & Irish Lions. While the men from Johannesburg played against the Lions, they may be a bit under cooked for this week’s Currie Cup clash.
Hawies Fourie will be naming his team on Thursday, and Saturday’s game in Doornfontein kicks off at 14:45. – MORGAN PIEK