Classic Cheetahs win Currie Cup in style

23 October 2016 - 02:02 By LIAM DEL CARME


If there is an upshot from the rubble of this season of discontent in South African rugby, it is the knowledge that there is much to learn from the new Currie Cup champions. The Cheetahs won their fifth Currie Cup crown (one shared) with a resounding victory over their nemesis, the Blue Bulls, but the win should and must have wider ramifications for the domestic game.The game as it has been played at test level and indeed by most of the local franchises has looked in desperate need of an overhaul. Not just are the All Blacks disappearing over the horizon but yesteryear's easy beats are leaving Bok rugby in their wake.The local game has been crying out for a vibrant new playing style, and while the Lions led the way in Super Rugby, the Cheetahs with more space and time available in the Currie Cup have literally taken it a step further.story_article_left1It is a brand of rugby that those who witness it have to admire.That they played their free-spirited, high- tempo and energy game in the final does not speak of arrogance but rather a realisation of what is possible when the mind is unshackled.They won at a canter yesterday but they were far from convincing in the execution. Yes, they well and truly had the beating of the Blue Bulls but they spurned lots of scoring opportunities.The rugby they played was almost the antithesis of what you'd usually see in a final. Caution was deliberately lobbed into the breeze and their full throttle approach was evident from the opening whistle.Behind a workman-like pack in which Uzair Cassiem and Torsten van Jaarsveld were tireless operators, Nico Lee shone with his elusive running in midfield, while Sergeal Petersen and Raymond Rhule looked sharp on the periphery. Greater awareness of what happens around him will make Petersen an even more formidable opponent.Even the consistently capricious Clayton Blommetjies smelt like roses yesterday.The Cheetahs went about their business with far greater urgency and while they stretched the Bulls out wide, at close quarters they also had the measure of the Pretoria side.The hosts' scrum has transformed itself this season under the watchful eye of scrum coach Daan Human but it is the ease with which they handle that has impressed most this season.The match had a frenetic opening passage as the Cheetahs set out their stall by using the width of the field, but it was soon clear that their game was going to need balance.Though the Cheetahs carried the ball with gusto, their imprecision and impatience at times conspired against them. It meant with possession and territory heavily stacked in their favour they had to administer the slow poison of three pointers via the reliable boot of flyhalf Niel Marais, who obliged with seven successful attempts.That the Bulls were attempting to fight fire with fire in the second half was clear in the most electrifying passage of play in this year's Currie Cup in the 46th minute. The multi-phased move had more twists and turns than a Hitchcock thriller.The Free State Class of '16 had hoped to emulate their forerunners who won the coveted trophy for the first time 40 years ago. They didn't just win it, they did so in style .SCORERSCheetahs (36) - Tries: Clayton Blommetjies, Sergeal Petersen. Conversion: Fred Zeilinga. Penalties: Niel Marais (7), Zeilinga.Blue Bulls (16) - Try: Piet van Zyl. Conversion: Joshua Stander. Penalties: Tian Schoeman (3).

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