Kimberley – The Free State Cheetahs have almost cemented their place in the knockout stages of the Currie Cup competition with a 52-21 win over Griquas in an encounter at GWK Park in Kimberley on Saturday.
Achieving the bonus point for four or more tries, the Bloemfontein based side need a single point against the Blue Bulls next weekend to make sure of their playoff spot. Griquas, on the other hand, will now start preparing for the promotion/relegation matches.
The Cheetahs started at a steady pace and put Griquas under good pressure early on. The first three-pointer came courtesy of flyhalf Elgar Watts in the third minute.
Griquas looked to match the visitors on the attack, but a lapse in concentration in the ninth minute led to the Cheetahs first try via prop Schalk van der Merwe. Van der Merwe burst over from a Griquas lineout five metres from their own goal line. Griquas hooker Ryno Barnes' throw-in went astray and Van der Merwe reacted well to gather and cross the whitewash.
Watts was called into service again shortly after to kick another penalty, which he did successfully.
Griquas struggled in the scrums the whole afternoon with new prop Nico Pretorius conceding many penalties. Watts kicked another in the 26th minute, to stretch the Cheetahs lead to 14 points.
Griquas finally got on the scoreboard four minutes from half time when lock Dalton Davis converted a break by Jaco Nepgen for the hosts. Full back Gouws Prinsloo converted.
The Cheetahs started the second half at frantic pace, with only good defence from Griquas denying the visitors an early try. The hosts did however still concede many penalties and Watts helped himself to another three points. The Cheetahs scored a second try in the 58th minute through winger Raymond Rhule, who rounded off a back-hand pass by centre Johann Sadie with Watts converting.
More tries followed as replacement scrumhalf Piet van Zyl and Rhule both dotted down. The two tries were converted, leaving the hosts to trail by 31 points.
Griquas replied near the end with a try by replacement lock Rory Arnold. Prinsloo converted, but it was much too late for Griquas. Griquas went on to score another try with lock Jaco Nepgen bargin his way over, before conceding a third and fourth to Rhule before the final whistle.
Free State Cheetahs 52 (14): Tries: Schalk van der Merwe, Raymond Rhule (4), Piet van Zyl. Conversions: Elgar Watts (2), Willie du Plessis (3). Penalties: Elgar Watts (4).
Griquas 21 (7): Tries: Dalton Davis, Rory Arnold, Jaco Nepgen. Conversions: Gouws Prinsloo (3). – Sapa