Ruan Pienaar sustained a serious knee injury
- Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie hailed his side’s narrow Super Rugby Unlocked win over the Bulls as a great achievement given the adversity they’ve had to face over the past few weeks.
- To compound matters, skipper Ruan Pienaar cried off early in the game with a serious knee injury.
- Bulls mentor Jake White lamented his team’s poor discipline but was still proud of their comeback.
Despite the narrow two-point winning margin, Hawies Fourie, the Cheetahs’ head coach, believes his charges’ 19-17 victory over the much-fancied Bulls in their Super Rugby Unlocked meeting in Bloemfontein on Friday night was a pretty momentous achievement.
Except for the disappointment of SA Rugby’s decision on their PRO Rugby future, the franchise had to contend with several other disruptions.
Firstly, former Free State Rugby Union vice-president Cedric Carson passed away before the team was further rocked by the deaths of Tumi Morakile and Eldar Mofo, who were involved in a major vehicle accident on their way home from last weekend’s win over the Pumas.
And, to compound matters, the Cheetahs saw their skipper and former Springbok halfback Ruan Pienaar taken off in the first half with what is feared to be a season-ending knee injury.
“When you take into account all the negative things that happened to us over the past two to three weeks as well as the sad news we had to deal with too, this was an unbelievable team effort,” Fourie said afterwards.
“I’m really proud of this effort. We knew that we could win this game and we consequently backed ourselves. It was never in doubt even though it was quite close at the end. We kept our composure.”
The result is indeed a major statement of intent from the Cheetahs, not only in terms of the symbolism that it represents in terms of being snubbed for the Super Rugby franchises for PRO Rugby but also that they can more than hold their own against that full-strength opposition.
“For the past few seasons, we never got to play South African derbies against the best teams in the country. We always want to measure ourselves against the best,” said vice-captain Junior Pokomela, who’ll now be elevated to the main role following Ruan Pienaar’s injury.
“Having the Springboks present is great. We want to prove a point as players to these guys and show that we can compete. It’s a blessing to play against them.”
Meanwhile, Jake White, the Bulls’ director of rugby, lamented his team’s poor discipline, particularly in the second and third quarters, though he praised their character in finishing strongly.
“We conceded too many penalties consecutively. We let the Cheetahs get out of their half and then they basically got into ours,” he said.
“I’m quite proud of the way we came back but the work-on is that we need to be more disciplined. We’ll also need to take our opportunities, like when (replacement flyhalf) Chris Smith had a chance to tie the game with his conversion.”