Bloemfontein – The Cheetahs have qualified for the Currie Cup final next weekend and will also host the showpiece after a compelling 55-17 win over the defending champions the Lions at the Free State Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
While wing Sergeal Petersen was the big hero with his hat-trick, the basis for the Cheetahs win was their aggressive defence which completely put the Lions off the rail and they never recovered.
The Cheetahs bullied the Lions up front, except the scrums, while only the Lions will know what happened to their defence.
While the Cheetahs scored six tries against three, the Cheetahs were in control throughout and frankly the Lions never looked like winning the game.
It will be the Cheetahs first final at home since 2007 and also their first final since 2009 when they lost to the Blue Bulls at Loftus.
Despite a sudden hail storm in the 20th minute, the Cheetahs dominated the entire game and with a 26-0 lead at the break, the home side was leading 33-0 by the time the Lions scored their first try through replacement wing Sylvian Mahuza in the 49th minute to trail by 33-5.
The Lions scored their second try in the 66th minute through Mahuza’s braze to make the score 36-10, but then the Cheetahs hit back with even more tries through wing Rayno Benjamin in the 68th minute, fullback Clayton Blommetjies in the 71st minute and Petersen’s hattrick score in the 75th minute.
The only department where the Lions showed any kind of resilience was at scrum-time but the Cheetahs were in command as far as territory, possession and defence were concerned as the Cheetahs made a mockery of the pre-game predictions that it could be a close affair.
The Cheetahs opened the scoring in the fifth minute with flyhalf Niel Marais slotting his first penalty to make it 3-0 and four minutes later it became 6-0 when Marais was again on song after a penalty was awarded against Lions No 8 Fabian Booysen.
The Cheetahs showed their intentions when rightwing Sergeal Petersen scored the first try of the game in the 11th minute for a 13-0 after Marais made it a seven-pointer shortly after Lions leftwing Anthony Volmink was left concussed after a head clash.
In the 24th minute Marais slotted his fourth kick after a penalty to make it 16-0 and it went from bad to worse for the visitors when flank Cyle Brink was yellow-carded two minutes later in order for Marais to make it 19-0.
Petersen wasn’t done yet and scored his second try in the 34th minute when the Lions again coughed up possession and it was kicked through for the Cheetahs flyer to finish the job. And once Marais converted it became 26-0 and started to look like a hammering for the Lions.
The Cheetahs started the second like the first with No 8 Niell Jordaan scoring their third try after they started running virtually from the restart and found the holes in the Lions defence.
Marais kicked his seventh straight successful kick to make it 33-0 after 41 minutes.