With both South Africa’s Pro14 sides winning on Saturday, a rare event in itself, their return derby in Bloemfontein next weekend could be as tough an encounter the two teams will experience all season.
Plenty of excitement and entertainment but not too much class or quality were on display as the Cheetahs trounced Zebre 61-28, scoring nine tries to four, and the Kings left their win to the last three minutes before overcoming an Edinburgh side without their 12 internationals t Nelson Mandela bay University, where the score was 25-21
♦ In Bloemfontein, the Cheetahs scored their fifth win of the season and will entertain hopes of making the play-offs, as they did last year. That is now a possibility after their three successive wins, but an unrealistic expectation.
However, with many of the Pro14 sides weakened by international call-ups for the Six Nations which starts next weekend, results could be surprisingly different than what was previously expected. That could prove all predictions wrong.
On Saturday, Rabz Maxwane scored his 10th Pro14 try of the season in the second minute, but Zebre struck back with a try by Paula Balekana before the Cheetahs’ Malcolm Jaer, Sintu Manjezi and Abongile Nonkontwana scored tries to secure the four-try bonus point before halftime, with the score then at 26-7.
Five more tries by the Free State side and three by the visitors in the second half, with the try-tally 4-1 in the last 20 minutes to the Cheetahs, provided plenty of entertainment to the meagre crown of only 6 300 but also contained some unsure handling and unforced errors, and importantly a loss of concentration which mattered none in this encounter.
Tries: Rabz Maxwane, Malcolm Jaer, Sintu Manjezi, Abongile Nonkontwana, Ox Nche, Shaun Venter (2), Junior Pokomela, Benhard Janse van Rensburg. Conversions: Tian Schoeman (8).
Paula Balekana, Johan Meyer, Apisai Tauyavuca, George Biagi. Conversion: Carlo Canna (4).
♦ The Kings started well, were generally outplayed with only 25% of territory and 31% possession and many of their same old problems manifested in the match. They conceded 18 penalties, received yet another yellow card, were forced to make 217 tackles (of which only 22 were missed) and were on their heels most of the time.
But in the interesting but rather poor match, they played their hearts out, tackled like demons around the breakdowns, and scored two tries in the last five minutes following Ross Ford’s converted try in the 73th minute to take the lead.
The Kings started brilliantly through Bjorn Basson’s individual chip-kick and score effort, and followed that by tries by replacement Bader-Werner Pretorius from a forward drive and Yaw Penxe’s outstanding try to take an improbable win.
Penxe scored from the restart when the Kings went wide and their Fijian substitute Meli Rokoua stepped inside to beat the defence, raced to the halfway line and off-loaded out the back of his hand to Penxe, who used his great speed to the tryline for the Kings’ second win of the season.
Tries: Bjorn Basson, Bader Pretorius, Yaw Penxe. Conversions: Masixole Banda (2). Penalties: Banda (2).
Tries: Chris Dean, penalty try, Ross Ford. Conversions: Jaco van der Walt (2).