The Cheetahs fought back after a withering first-half assault to storm home 47-38 over the Wellington Hurricanes in their Super Rugby match yesterday.
The win at Wellington’s Westpac stadium was a morale-boosting finish to the Cheetahs’ tour of Australia and New Zealand, the Bloemfontein-based team returning home with a 2-2 record after a pair of gallant losses to the Canberra-based ACT Brumbies and the Canterbury Crusaders.
The Hurricanes ran over four tries to charge into a 32-11 lead by the 31st minute, but were stunned as the Cheetahs hit back with three of their own to finish level at the break.
Tight-head prop W.P. Nel ratcheted up the pressure with a try 15 minutes after halftime and loose-head Coeni Oosthuizen drove over the line in the 69th minute, before the Cheetahs defended grimly to take the bonus point victory.
Hooker Dane Coles got the Hurricanes off to a flying start by shimmying past a defender to cross near the left post less than three minutes in.
However, Cheetahs inside center Andries Strauss touched down near the right hand corner soon after and was awarded the try after a lengthy television review.
The Hurricanes then capitalized on turnovers deep in their own territory to score three tries on the break.
Flyhalf Beauden Barrett slipped four tackles in an exhilarating 50m dash for the first, while fullback Andre Taylor streamed down the right wing to score the second.
Winger Julian Savea set up the third nine minutes from the break with a sprint down the left wing and a tidy offload inside to scrumhalf T.J. Perenara, who crossed left of the posts.
However, the Cheetahs began to hold their passes and fullback Hennie Danniller and winger Ryno Benjamin each crossed near the right hand corner after the ball was quickly spread wide to cut the Hurricanes defense to shreds.
Oosthuizen barged over on the right to score his first try seconds before the halftime whistle.
Barrett scored 23 points for the Hurricanes, slotting the last of his four penalties in the 60th minute to have his team claw back to trail 40-38, but Oosthuizen’s second try sealed a deserving win for the Cheetahs, who had dominated territory and possession throughout the game.