SHOOT: The Free State Cheetahs are a bunch of fighters. They might be bottom of the log one year but they'll still give the log leaders - usually the Bulls - carrots. Once again WP underestimated the Vrystaters, and in a 6 minute blitz saw the game turn upside down. The Cheetahs, I'm happy to report, are stilling in the running, sharing 4th place on the log with Griquas.
Cape Town - The visiting Free State Cheetahs produced a telling 17-point second-half scoring spree in the space of six minutes to send Western Province crashing to a 29-24 defeat in the Currie Cup match played at Newlands on Friday night.
Two converted tries and penalty, all in a hectic six-minute passage of play, was all the Cheetahs needed to finally contain the Province challenge, which earlier in the match looked like a match-winning one.
The Cheetahs flyhalf Louis Strydom was the hero for his side with a personal contribution of 19 points, via five penalties and two conversions.
Province took the game by the scruff of the neck straight from the kick-off and after only three minutes' play they managed a turn-over and a line-out steal on their way to the Cheetahs' 22-metre area, where Gio Aplon managed to worm his way down the Railway Stand touchline and score at the corner.
However, Aplon was adjudged to have stepped into touch in his try-scoring effort and the try was disallowed.
Aplon featured among the personnel and positional pre-match changes in the Province starting XV after the withdrawals of centre Tim Whitehead and prop Buhle Mxunyelwa. JJ Engelbrecht came in for Aplon on the right-wing, while the latter moved the left-wing, in place of Frikkie Welsh, who filled in for Whitehead.
On the Province bench, centre Morgan Newman was added to the reserves after Mxunyelwa's withdrawal.
Both sides traded heavily on ball-in-hand running movements and the backline looked threatening but errors, mainly by way of forward passes allowed defences to stay intact.
The contests at the breakdowns were fiercely contested but not without falling foul of referee Pro Legoete. As a result, Cheetahs flyhalf Louis Strydom was on target four times with penalty attempts while Province pivot Willem de Waal steered one through the posts for a 12-3 scoreline after 34 minutes play.
With neither side managing to eliminate the shortcomings from their games the few threatening sorties ahead of the halftime break came to nought by the time the halftime whistle sounded.
Province made a similar start to the second half but this time they were rewarded with an Adriaan Fondse try just two minutes after the restart, and with De Waal adding the conversion the visitors lead was shrunk by seven points (12-10).
In the ensuing minutes Province were poised for another advance but they were overcome by white line fever and four attempts, in quick succession, came to nought at a time when spreading the ball wide seemed the more likelier option.
As the match approached the hour mark the Cheetahs regained their composure and in the space of six minutes enjoyed an incredible 17-point scoring spree to secure a commanding 29-10 lead.
First Strydom goaled a penalty and that effort was followed by converted tries by substitute loosie Kabamba Floors and Jongi Nokwe.
Province responded with converted tries by Aplon and Duane Vermeulen but it was not enough to overcome the telling setback and in the process they suffered their first home defeat of the season (29-24).
But the crowd of 24 000 were left leaping from their seats in anticipation as Province made one frantic attempt after the other to salvage the match - to no avail.