Sweet and sour for Cheetahs against Oyonnax

Henry

It is not easy for any South African rugby team to play on a synthetic pitch in Europe’s freezing conditions.

If you get a red card in the first half, two further yellow cards and concede three penalties in the 83rd, 85th and 86th minutes, the chances are very slim that you will beat a French team.

But the Cheetahs got the better of the home team on Saturday night in Oyonnax when they were beaten 28-27 in the dying moments after Adrien Bordenave scored his team’s winning streak after sustained pressure.

The Cheetahs nevertheless won two bonus points, which was enough to see them progress to the play-offs of the European Challenge Cup Series.

But just like last week against Pau, the Cheetahs’ discipline lolled.

The winger Daniel Kassende (yellow card, 11th minute), the other winger Munier Hartzenberg (red card, 16th minute) and the lock and captain, Victor Sekete (yellow card, 28th minute) went through.

Hartzenberg lifted the feet of Oyonnax’s full-back Maxime Salles under him after a high kick. He was initially punished with a yellow card, but after Kassende’s yellow card earlier for a similar offense and several viewings on television, it was changed to red.

Perhaps the Cheetahs were too eager, perhaps the pressure to speak up for the South African rugby bosses who treat them like a stepchild is just too great.

Added to that, Oyonnax’s discipline was also not to our liking and they also received a yellow card (Daniel Ikpefan) and conceded many penalties, which left the door open for the Cheetahs.

The Cheetahs were 19-0 ahead at one stage in the first half and under normal circumstances they would have planted the knockout blow.

But getting by with only 14 players for 60 minutes and sometimes also playing with just 13 requires big adjustments and guts on defense.

The bright spots were the performance of veteran Ruan Pienaar, who first played scrum-half and later fly-half.

He brought his usual calmness, his passing was superb and his tactical kicks spot on.

Up front, Jeandré Rudolph came out on top at eighth, although he went through a few times under the referee’s whistle.

Scorers:

Oyonnax 28 (14). Tries: Loic Godener, Filimo Taofifenua, David Odiase, Adrien Bordenave. Goals: Domingo Miotti (2), Jules Soulan (2).

Cheetahs 27 (22). Tries: Munier Hartzenberg, Marnus van der Merwe (2), Ruan Pienaar. Goals: Pienaar (2). Penalty Goal: Pienaar