Mon, Oct 16, 2006 - Page 18 News List

Cheetahs, Blue Bulls share the spoils

HONORS EVEN Not even 100 minutes of all-out rugby could separate South Africa's top two teams on Saturday and so the Currie Cup silverware will have to be shared

AFP , BLOEMFONTEIN, SOUTH AFRICA

Stormers scrumhalf Bolla Conradie, left, challenges Cheetahs flank Kabamba Floors off the ball during their Super 14 rugby match at Newlands, Cape Town, on March 18. Floors was man of the match in the Currie Cup final on Saturday.

PHOTO: EPA

The defending champions, the Cheetahs, and the Blue Bulls shared South Africa's Currie Cup trophy after a pulsating 100 minutes in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

The teams were forced into 20 minutes of extra time after being level at 25-all after 80 minutes, but nothing could separate the sides after the additional time.

Replacement flyhalves Meyer Bosman (Cheetahs) and Morne Steyn (Bulls) struck penalties in extra time, but neither side was able to breach the others defenses so the trophy was once again shared.

Credit must however be given to the Bulls who turned around a 3-14 deficit and lost two players to the sin-bin in the second period to force the tie into extra time.

The Cheetahs, however, deserve mention for their tenacious defense and the manner in which they took on the big Bulls forwards in the second 40 minutes.

It was mainly a sparring session in the opening half hour with both sides preferring to keep the ball among the forwards and the flyhalves kicking into the corners.

There were also a number of up and unders, but both teams did well in the defensive department.

As it was there were few try-scoring chances with No. 10s Willem de Waal and Derick Hougaard dominating the opening exchanges with their boots.

De Waal landed three penalties inside 30 minutes to Hougaard's one for a 9-3 lead for the defending champions before the match was set alight with a superb try by Cheetahs winger Philip Burger.

Cheetahs flanker Kabamba Floors broke the initial line of defense from the kickoff before off-loading to hooker Richardt Strauss who in turn flipped the ball to the speedy Burger on his outside and the son of the great Springbok flank Thys Burger showed a clean pair of heels to score in the corner.

De Waal missed the conversion, but the Cheetahs enjoyed a handy 14-3 lead.

The Bulls though hit back with two minutes remaining in the second period when center JP Nel benefited from some lax defense from the home side to close the gap to just five points.

The Bulls, however, suffered a major blow just moments after the restart when fullback Johan Roets was sin-binned for obstruction and points machine Hougaard had to be replaced because of injury.

It was the visitors though who scored next, through winger Marius Delport, who collected a loose ball after replacement Steyn had chipped the ball into open space. Steyn made no mistake with the conversion to give the Bulls the lead for the first time in the match.

De Waal then struck his fourth penalty to restore the home team's dominance, 17-15, while the Bulls lost another player, center Dries Scholtz, to the sin-bin for a late charge on De Waal.

The lead changed once again when Steyn slotted his first three-pointer, but the brilliant Floors then put his side back in front after wonderful build-up by the home side when he went in for the Cheetahs' second try and minutes later De Waal slotted his fifth penalty for a 25-18 lead for the home side.

The Bulls then piled on the pressure in the final 10 minutes and after a superb defensive effort by the Cheetahs the visitors finally found their way over the Cheetahs line, center Nel getting his second try. Steyn converted to push the match into extra time.

Springbok Side

AP, BLOEMFONTEIN, SOUTH AFRICA

Springbok coach Jake White named four rookies on Saturday in his 28-man squad to play two tests against England and one versus Ireland in November.

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