The Cheetahs scored 15 unanswered points in the second half to clinch a 27-12 victory over Zebre in Parma on Sunday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
Coming into this clash after a festive season break, the well-rested Cheetahs were on the hunt for a third win in what has otherwise been a disappointing season to date.
With that in mind, it is a case of mission accomplished for the Cheetahs, but coach Franco Smith will be far from satisfied with what was a largely disjointed performance against a hapless Zebre side.
Two late tries ensured the final scoreline would look rather flattering to the Cheetahs, but there is no doubt that they were the better side on a fine evening in Italy.
The Cheetahs made an encouraging start to proceedings, with tries to Benhard Janse van Rensburg and Rabz Maxwane opening up a 12-0 lead after 25 minutes of play.
However, Zebre hit back with two quickfire tries of their own to ensure that nothing would separate the sides on the scoreboard as they headed into the break.
In the context of a scrappy clash, it was crucial for the Cheetahs to score first after the restart, and that they did when Janse van Rensburg showed good strength to barge over the tryline in the 43rd minute.
Although that opened up a five-point lead, the Cheetahs continued to embrace a bold approach in search of a bonus-point try as they twice turned down kickable shots at goal just after the hour mark.
It all proved to be in vain, though, as two attacking mauls ultimately came to nought.
Nevertheless, the Cheetahs finally managed to get the job done when replacement hooker Reinach Venter dotted down in the 76th minute to secure the win and bonus point, while Daniel Maartens added one more try before full-time for good measure.
Zebre – Tries: Edoardo Padovani, Giulio Bisegni. Conversion: Carlo Canna.
Cheetahs – Tries: Benhard Janse van Rensburg (2), Rabz Maxwane, Reinach Venter, Daniel Maartens. Conversion: Tian Schoeman.
Zebre – 15 Edoardo Padovani, 14 Paula Balekana, 13 Giulio Bisegni, 12 Nicolas De Battista, 11 James Elliott, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Guglielmo Palazzani, 8 Jimmy Tuivaiti, 7 Giovanni Licata, 6 Maxime Mbandà, 5 Samuele Ortis, 4 David Sisi (c), 3 Eduardo Bello, 2 Massimo Ceciliani, 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Subs:16 Luhandre Luus, 17 Daniele Rimpelli, 18 Giosue Zilocchi, 19 George Biagi, 20 Iacopo Bianchi, 21 Josh Renton, 22 Francois Brummer, 23 Tommaso Boni.
Cheetahs – 15 Malcolm Jaer, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 Nico Lee, 11 Rabz Maxwane, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Daniel Maartens, 7 Junior Pokomela, 6 Gerhard Olivier, 5 JP du Preez, 4 Justin Basson, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Ox Nche.
Subs: 16 Reinach Venter, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Luan de Bruin, 19 Sintu Manjezi, 20 Walt Steenkamp, 21 Abongile Nonkontwana, 22 Rudy Paige, 23 Louis Fouche.