PRO14 / 1 December 2019, 2:30pm / ANA Sports Reporter
SWANSEA – The Cheetahs left Neath a relieved team that they broke their Pro14 tour duck to hand Hawies Fourie his first win in charge of the team after taking over the coaching from Franco Smith in round four.
The Free Staters’ 18-13 win saw them break a run of three away defeats and also gave them their first win away from home this year against an Ospreys side that was condemned to their sixth straight defeat in all competitions.
But the nail-biting nature and the grit and character that the Cheetahs showed to win the game pleased Fourie, especially as they defended four penalty lineout maul drives in the dying seconds to defend their line and claim the victory.
“We are very relieved after the win,” said Fourie.
“The last three to four minutes on our own try-line really had my nerves on end. I’m very impressed with the character of the team to keep them from scoring. To stop some of those mauls on our own try-line was impressive and in general our defence was exceptional on the night.
“On attack we had our opportunities but didn’t use them and gave them easy turnover ball at times. They kicked behind us very well to turn us around and gain a lot of territory that gave them chances to score points.
“It wasn’t the prettiest game to watch, but that is how it goes in these conditions this time of year. The fields are wet and it is cold. It isn’t the nicest conditions to play rugby in, but you also need to win ugly at times.
“I’m just thankful that after these four games overseas we could finally get the win. We were unlucky not to beat Connacht on the previous tour. But from this we can build, and we now have a break and play Zebre on 4 January in Italy. We will take a break now and then regroup for that game.”
The Southern Kings dominated possession and territory in the first half and forced Connacht to make a number of tackles, but couldn’t finish the chances they created as they went down 24-12 to the Irish side in Galway on Saturday night.
Connacht were exceptional as they played the territory game well in the second half to deny the Kings and record a solid victory.
“It was a good performance from us, especially regarding the fact we got physically stuck in,” said Isuzu Southern Kings coach Robbie Kempson afterwards.
“That is exactly what we wanted. We showed a bit of passion and pride and we knew that Connacht are a dangerous side, especially in the second half. They kept us well in our own half and played the territory well.
“In the second half we hardly got out of our half and into theirs and when we did, we didn’t use our opportunities. We made some mistakes unfortunately and we let ourselves down with our individual errors. We didn’t convert and that was the difference in the game.”
Kempson said while he was relatively happy despite the result, he felt the team’s attack needed to evolve more if they were to be competitive away from home.
“We are relatively happy, particularly with this performance – it’s never an easy place to play and from my perspective, our defence has grown,” he said.
“There is still more we can do on attack. To come out and play against the Irish sides and to be able to match them physically is something for a travelling side. That for me is a big positive and if we can maintain that level and standard then we can take that towards Edinburgh which will be another tricky one.”