Cape Town – Cheetahs captain Victor Sekekete says his team had “done our homework” on the Blue Bulls, and that was clear for everyone to see in Saturday’s 39-10 Currie Cup semi-final victory in Bloemfontein.
Coach Hawies Fourie’s side were just too good for Jake White’s team as they scored three tries, while veteran flyhalf Ruan Pienaar slotted six penalties and two conversions for a 22-point haul to secure a place in next week’s final at the Free State Stadium against either the Sharks or Pumas, who are busy contesting the second semi-final in Durban.
While the Bulls had several opportunities to strike, they were met with fierce defence by a committed Cheetahs outfit that pounced at the breakdowns and forced a number of knock-ons in contact situations.
They successfully disrupted the Bulls’ rhythm with ball-in-hand, and were helped by an early mistake from fullback Johan Goosen, whose kick was charged-down by Cheetahs No 12 Reinhardt Fortuin, who kept his cool to open the scoring.
The Bulls were unable to convert a number of attacking chances into points, and instead it was the Cheetahs who handled the pressure superbly despite a yellow card being issued to tighthead prop Conraad van Vuuren for a cynical infringement at a breakdown close to his own tryline.
A wonderfully worked try by fullback Tapiwa Mafura off a scrum saw the Cheetahs claim a 20-3 lead, and Pienaar’s boot in the second half ensured that the Bulls were shut out.
“I think for us, it’s all been about focusing on ourselves, and doing our processes right. So, that’s all we wanted – we wanted to focus on ourselves. We knew that the Bulls were going to bring pressure through every single facet of the game,” No 5 lock Sekekete told SuperSport on a post-match TV interview.
“So for us, it was all about controlling the game and being in the right territory at the right time.
“We did our homework, and all that was important for us was the pressure and tackling and keeping them in their half.
“Home final, everybody’s happy about it! The team are excited about it, the people of Bloemfontein has been looking forward to it.
“We’ve all missed the hype, and I would like to say to the people of Bloemfontein, thanks for the support.
“And please do come through, because the team looks forward to it when you’re around.”
The 29-point defeat ended a disappointing season for White’s Bulls, who came up short in the United Rugby Championship with a quarter-final loss to the Stormers, while they went down in the Champions Cup round of 16 to Toulouse.
Captain Marcell Coetzee conceded that the Cheetahs were just too good on the day.
“Obviously very disappointed. But fair play to the Cheetahs – I thought they had an awesome game. Controlled the game well, took their opportunities where we didn’t in the first half, and that created a lot of pressure on us going into the second half,” the No 6 flank told SuperSport.
“Unfortunately this is the end of the road for us, but good luck to the Cheetahs for the final.
“It has been (a long season), but there are no excuses. If you get an opportunity to play in the playoff, then you have to be at your best – and we weren’t unfortunately.
“We have to take this on the chin, regroup as a squad in the off-season now and take our time and we will see where we can get better as a squad.
“But for Blue Bulls standards, this is not ideal. But we will take a hard look at ourselves and take our learnings – especially from today’s game, as we were well beaten by a better opponent.”
Cheetahs 39 – Tries: Reinhardt Fortuin, Tapiwa Mafura, Evardi Boshoff. Conversion: Ruan Pienaar (2), Boshoff (1). Penalties: Pienaar (6).
Blue Bulls 10 – Try: Johan Grobbelaar. Conversion: Johan Goosen (1). Penalty: Goosen (1).