Cheetahs batter Bulls at Loftus

The Free State Cheetahs kicked off their Currie Cup campaign with a 43-27 win against the Blue Bulls in Pretoria on Friday night. SIMON BORCHARDT reports. While this Cheetahs team was packed with Pro14 players, they had not taken contact in a game situation since late April, which coach Franco Smith admitted beforehand was a concern. He need not have worried as Free State flew into a 10-0 lead after a Tiaan Schoeman penalty goal and a try from Henco Venter, who burst away from the back of a maul. The Bulls responded through Cornal Hendricks, who took a long pass from Manie Libbok on the bounce to score in the corner, but they would have been concerned about their scrum. The Free State pack won two penalties at the set-piece and it was from a 5m scrum that the ball went wide to Benhard Janse van Rensburg, who dived over. The Free State outside centre grabbed his second try in the 32nd minute after a strong run from Junior Pokomela as the visitors took a 22-5 lead. The Bulls needed to score next to stay in the game and they did, just before the break, when Ruan Steenkamp went over from a lineout driving maul. REPORT: Griquas survive Pumas' fightback The Bulls dominated the first 10 minutes of the second half, but Free State kept them out and then scored at the other end through Louis Fouche. Rosko Specman collected his kick ahead to score the Bulls' third try, but the Cheetahs replied through Jasper Wiese, who went over from an unstoppable lineout driving maul. Darren Adonis then took advantage of some poor Bulls defence to score his first Currie Cup try, before Johan Grobbelaar and Conraad van Vuuren scored tries for the hosts that added some respectability to the scoreline. Blue Bulls - Tries: Cornal Hendricks, Ruan Steenkamp, Rosko Specman, Johan Grobbelaar, Conraad van Vuuren. Conversion: Manie Libbok. Free State Cheetahs - Tries: Henco Venter, Benhard Janse van Rensburg (2), Louis Fouche, Jasper Wiese, Darren Adonis. Conversions: Tiaan Schoeman (5). Penalty: Schoeman. Blue Bulls - 15 Divan Rossouw, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Burger Odendaal (c), 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Tim Agaba, 7 Roelof Smit, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Andries Ferreira, 4 Ruan Nortje, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Simphiwe Matanzima. Subs: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 18 Conraad van Vuuren, 19 Jean Droste, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Marnitz Boshoff, 23 Dylan Sage. Free State Cheetahs - 15 Louis Fouche, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 Dries Swanepoel, 11 Rabz Maxwane, 10 Tiaan Schoeman, 9 Tian Meyer (c), 8 Henco Venter, 7 Abongile Nonkontwana, 6 Junior Pokomela, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Sintu Manjezi, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Ox Nche. Subs: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Reinach Venter, 19 JP du Preez, 20 Jasper Wiese, 21 Gerhard Olivier, 22 Dian Badenhorst, 23 Darren Adonis. Photo: Christiaan Kotze/BackpagePix