The Toyota Cheetahs handed out a knockout rugby lesson to smash the Vodacom Bulls 39-10 in their Currie Cup semifinal and book a home final in Bloemfontein next weekend.
While the Cheetahs played a masterclass in controlled rugby, led by their evergreen 39-year old talisman Ruan Pienaar, the Bulls, as they have done in the other two competitions they played in, imploded when it mattered.
The scoreline actually flattered the Bulls as the Cheetahs could have won by more and, if truth be told, this game has got to go down as possibly the worst performance by Jake White’s side this season.
The Toyota Cheetahs make home-ground advantage count ?
They thump the Vodacom Bulls 39-10 to book their spot in the #CurrieCup final. pic.twitter.com/wel6thZ2wD— SuperSport Rugby (@SSRugby) June 17, 2023
After bombing out in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship and the Heineken Champions’ Cup, the Bulls played their tired stars in the Currie Cup, setting their eyes on the prize and hoping to gain momentum and save their season by winning the domestic competition.
Instead, they found themselves against a hungry and passionate Cheetahs side that beat them in every aspect of the game, and were so dominant that the Bulls were the ones who looked like they belonged in a lower league.
DISASTER SEASON FOR BULLS
It’s hard to fathom just what is going on at Loftus Versfeld this season. One thing is clear, things are not going well. For all the talk and bluster the season has been a disaster, and this loss underlines just how big the challenges are for White and co.
If you are going to enter a full URC side into the Currie Cup, you need to win it. The Bulls, so hurt by their opening four losses that they fired Edgar Marutlulle and White returned to take the reigns of both the URC and Currie Cup sides, wanted more.
Now after a performance they would like to forget, they are left with nothing and there are many more questions than answers about how the team has been managed this season.
But to focus solely on the woeful Bulls performance would be a disservice to the Cheetahs win that was built on solid setpieces, a terrier-like defence and building the scoreboard when it mattered.
Hawies Fourie promised his team would be better at home and on the back of a superb 22-point boot of Ruan Pienaar, they delivered more than expected.
PIENAAR CLASS ACT
There couldn’t be a bigger contrast in two of the big name players than Pienaar and Johan Goosen, with the one playing a starring role and the other having a nightmare.
Pienaar’s general play was exceptional, while he kept his side on the front foot with the boot and never missed a kick all day, slowly inching the scoreline away from a desperate Bulls side.
In contrast, Goosen had another nightmare, and questions have to be asked about the consistent faith that White has had in him - as he coughed up 10 points on his own during the game - seven for a charged down try in the second minute and then another three for some mindless backchat at the referee late in the game when cool heads were needed.
There were more heroes for the Cheetahs as they bossed the breakdown again and were always dangerous on attack, and even though they only scored three tries on the day, added to the boot of Pienaar it was enough that the game was never in doubt.
Six penalties and two conversions later and Pienaar showed he still has more than enough class to play at this, or any level.
CHARGE DOWN SETS THE TREND
Reinhard Fortuin’s charge down in the second minute gave him the perfect gift for his 50th game for the Bloem side, and it put the Cheetahs up quickly when they needed to be.
Pienaar added two penalties to one by Goosen to keep the scoreboard ticking, and it was just reward when Tapiwa Mafura ghosted in from a set move to take the team to a 20-3 lead.
Halftime beckoned and at 20-3 it was almost game over.
The Cheetahs added another penalty early in the second half before the Bulls finally forced their way over the line with Johan Grobbelaar claiming the try.
They had a second disallowed when WJ Steenkamp showed a winger’s speed to score after beating three defenders, but the TMO intervention ruled that the pass was marginally forward out of Chris Smith’s hands to Steenkamp.
Then the Bulls started to unravel. Disciplinary choices cost them and Pienaar stepped up every time to drive another nail into the coffin.
The game was already over when Evardi Boshoff pounced on a grubbered ball in the in-goal area to seal the game.
BLOEMFONTEIN FINAL AN OMEN
The try sealed a horror afternoon for the Pretoria side, with their massive budget, and handed the victory to a team that had more fight, heart and skill than anything they encountered.
And Hawies Fourie will now have a chance to lift the Currie Cup at home next weekend - an omen that may be worth remembering when the Cheetahs won in 2007 and 2019 - both in World Cup years.
And it doesn’t take a genius to know who won the World Cup in those years as well.
Toyota Cheetahs 39 – Tries: Reinhardt Fortuin, Tapiwa Mafura, Evardi Boshoff. Conversions: Ruan Pienaar (2), Boshoff (1). Penalties: Pienaar (6).
Vodacom Blue Bulls 10 – Try: Johan Grobbelaar. Conversion: Johan Goosen (1). Penalty: Goosen (1).