It was once again a matter of so close, yet so for the Toyota Cheetahs in the Guinness Pro14, following a heart-breaking 30-26 defeat to Munster on Sunday in Bloemfontein.
This was to be the Cheetahs third match in a nine-day period and to be a quality team like the Irish visitors would always require something truly special, and at so nearly happened.
Munster raced to a 15-5 lead at the half break courtesy of tries by the former Springbok Arno Botha, and the hooker, Kevin O’Byrne, while the flyhalf, Bill Johnston, slotted a penalty and a conversion.
The Cheetahs sole try in the open forty minutes what by the hooker, Joseph Dweba, while Tian Schoeman was unable to at the extra two.
Six minutes into the second stanza, Liam Coombes, crossed the whitewash to take the visitors to a 22-5 lead.
Minutes later the comeback effort was mounted by the Cheetahs with a flurry of tries. First the Springbok prop, Ox Nche, scored, followed by his good friend, Dweba, who completed his brace, and finally, the fullback, Rhyno Smith, flew over for his first try in a Cheetahs jersey.
This handed the Cheetahs the lead, but the joy was short-lived as Mike Haley dotted down, and the replacement, Rory Scannell, landed a penalty to secure the win.
The Cheetahs coach, Franco Smith, said that is frustrating that his team do not reap the rewards for their hard work off the field.
“We work hard and that it is the frustration, we work really hard,” said the former Springbok.
“You want to see that out on the field, and you want to see these guys get rewarded for their hard work.
“You get to love these guys, you see the effort they put in and you can see how they move their own boundaries.
“Now there is a little bit of a mental block as this creates a little bit of doubt, and that is something that we need to stamp out. That’s the frustration.
“I see other teams playing to their limits and just fall short. We are not playing to our limits and just fall short, and that causes the frustration.”
The Cheetahs next game in the Pro14 will be on 24 November when they host the Italian team, Benetton Rugby, at the Toyota Stadium for the first time ever. This match in Bloemfontein is scheduled to kick-off at 14:30.
Cheetahs: Tries – Joseph Dweba 2, Ox Nche, Rhyno Smith Conv. – Tian Schoeman 3.
Munster: Tries – Arno Botha, Kevin O’Byrne, Liam Coombes, Mike Haley Conv. – Bill Johnston 2 Pen. – Bill Johnston 1, Rory Scannell 1. – MORGAN PIEK