FILE - Cheetahs captain Ruan Pienaar. Photo: Christiaan Kotze/BackpagePix

BLOEMFONTEIN – Cheetahs captain Ruan Pienaar praised his side after they broke their duck against Munster in the Pro14 over the weekend in Bloemfontein, while Isuzu Southern Kings’ coach Robbi Kempson lamented their poor start as they went down against Ulster in Port Elizabeth.

The Free Staters secured their third successive victory in the competition as they defeated Munster 40-16, while the Isuzu Southern Kings conceded five first-half tries to slump to a 42-17 loss against Ulster.

The Cheetahs struggled to build momentum in the first half, but pulled away in the second stanza as their expansive brand of rugby steered them to victory before they head off to Europe for their next match in a fortnight.

Pienaar, who has been a key figure in the team this season with his vast experience, believes the side is building something special as they continue to play with confidence and use their effective attacking rugby to take a step forward in the competition.

“This win was really important for us to build momentum before we head overseas,” said Pienaar. “It was a great test for us, especially with some of the situations we will face on tour.

“It is about building a winning culture, and we know it will be a massive challenge. This team has learned a lot, and it is about kicking on.”

Pienaar praised the forwards for laying the platform that allowed the backs to attack from in the second half to take the game away from Munster.

“The way we play is really a team effort,” said Pienaar. “Our forwards work hard as part of our structure as that gives the guys the confidence to play, and it is an exciting brand of rugby to play.

“We have players with good feet and pace, but we play a 15-man brand, so everyone needs to do their job for the others to shine.

“The culture that has been created is great.”

Hawies Fourie will replace Franco Smith as the head coach next week – a change that would have happened at the beginning of the season had Fourie not had to undergo a medical procedure that delayed his arrival in Bloemfontein.

In Port Elizabeth, meanwhile, Kempson lamented his charges’ poor start against Ulster, which saw them slide to their third defeat of the season.

While the young side battled back in the second half, playing catch-up proved too difficult, even though they had more than their fair share of chances.

“They totally outplayed us in the first half,” said Kempson. “They played exactly the game we wanted to play in terms of having a fast start.

“They capitalised on three or four errors and there were three or four tries, and defensively individual errors from players didn’t help us.

“That is why we made the changes at half time.”

Kempson praised the impact players that took the field after half time and said: “The substitutions made a difference, although from halftime we were basically an under-23 side on the field.

“There was a lot more energy and effort, and I have to give it to the side that played in the second half. We showed what we can do if we are given the opportunity, and the players went out there and produced the goods.

Both sides will have a week off before embarking on their tour to Europe for a batch of away games.

African News Agency (ANA)