Former Bulls haunt them as Cheetahs triumph in South Africa

Johannesburg (AFP) –


Tian Schoeman and Rosko Specman scored all the points against former team the Bulls to give the Cheetahs a 19-17 win Friday in a South African Super Rugby Unlocked second round match.

Fly-half Schoeman kicked four penalties from five attempts and converted a brilliantly executed first half try from winger Specman in central city Bloemfontein.

It was the second successive home victory for the Cheetahs and lifted them five points clear at the top of the standings in the seven-team competition.

Trailing by 13 points and reduced to 14 men by the yellow-carding of lock Ruan Nortje on 61 minutes, the Bulls scored 11 unanswered points to reduce the gap to just two points.

But as the Pretoria outfit pushed forward from their half to try and snatch a post-siren victory, they knocked on the ball and the final whistle sounded to end a lively match.

Hooker Joe van Zyl came off the bench to score a pushover try on debut, veteran fly-half Morne Steyn slotted three penalties and his replacement, Chris Smith, one.

Smith had a chance to equalise in the final minute of regular time but his conversion veered just left of the near post.

Cheetahs number eight Jasper Wiese was voted man of the match and more performances like the one against the Bulls are bound to catch the attention of Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber.

The Cheetahs' success was all the sweeter as they had to play 65 minutes without talismanic captain and scrum-half Ruan Pienaar, who injured his knee.

Veteran Bulls full-back Gio Aplon was another early departee, also after sustaining a knee injury in a match staged behind closed doors because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"I appreciated the support from my team-mates as we achieved a great victory," said Cheetahs flanker Junior Pokomela, who took over the captaincy when Pienaar retired.

"Now we must study the Lions when they play the Stormers tomorrow before facing them next weekend in Johannesburg."

Bulls skipper and number eight Duane Vermeulen said: "We showed great character to fight back, initially with 14 men, and at least we had the consolation of a bonus point."

Winger Malcolm Jaer moved across the field to become an extra man in a sweeping backline move that set up Specman to go over and the Cheetahs led 13-3 at half-time.

A couple of Schoeman penalties extended the lead to 19-6 before the Bulls' fightback created a tense finish.