After a miserable Super Rugby campaign, which last night ended with several stars including Francois Hougaard, Pierre Spies and Flip van der Merwe playing their last games before moving elsewhere – the Cheetahs had the final say with a convincing and very impressive win.
Neither team will look back on a season with any pride, but it was Franco Smith’s Cheetahs – in just the second game since he took the reins from Naka Drotske – who finished stronger and more impressively, running in six tries to the Bulls’ four.
And if last night’s performance is anything to go by then the Cheetahs could very well become a force next year.
Smith’s brand of running rugby won him and the Shimlas a first Varsity Cup title earlier this year and last night the Cheetahs showed glimpses of what is to come under the former Bok’s guidance.
The visitors played with width and pace and had the Bulls on the back foot for much of the encounter.
The home side crossed the whitewash first through Jesse Kriel, but by the time the half-time whistle was blown by Craig Joubert, the Cheetahs were 28-10 up, having scored four tries through Neill Jordaan, Henco Venter, Clayton Blommetjies and Sarel Pretorius.
Pretorius was again the star of the Cheetahs performance – always menacing around the fringes of the rucks and mauls and his quick-tap penalties ensured his side were always on the front foot, probing the Bulls’ defensive line.
Francois Venter was also a handful in the midfield, while Willie le Roux was his usual menacing self out wide.
The Bulls simply had no answer for the Cheetahs and it looked as if the visitors would run away with the contest soon after the restart when Steven Sykes scored, but the Bulls tried hard to get back in the contest and Hougaard’s try on 57 minutes gave them some hope.
It came after an injection of fresh legs from the bench and due to another strong run by the hugely impressive Kriel.
Spies also crossed with 10 minutes to go to reduce the deficit to 11 points, but the Cheetahs’ Rayno Benjamin sealed the deal with his team’s sixth try two minutes later.
The Bulls might have finished the stronger of the teams, with Hougaard getting a second try on the stroke of full-time, but their poor handling and option-taking cost them dearly.
It was a disappointing showing by Frans Ludeke’s men, but a hugely impressive one by the Cheetahs, who look to be in far better shape than the cash-flush Bulls going into the Currie Cup and even into next year.
Bulls (10) 29
Tries: Kriel, Hougaard (2), Spies; Conversions: Potgieter, Schoeman (2); Penalty: Potgieter
Cheetahs (28) 42
Tries: Jordaan, Venter, Blommetjies, Pretorius, Sykes, Benjamin; Conversions: Marais (6)
Original source: Impressive Cheetahs spoil Bulls’ party