The Guinness Pro14 returned to South African shores on Friday 18 January, when the Isuzu Southern Kings hosted the Toyota Cheetahs in a massive derby clash. Both sides were looking for a much-needed victory, with both sides languishing in the bottom sections of their respective logs.
The Kings came into the match on the back of a disappointing first outing in 2019 against Edinburgh, which they lost 38-0. They came into the match hoping that home ground advantage would stem the tied of the Cheetahs, who were buoyed by their 12-27 victory over Zebre in Italy.
The Cheetahs threatened the Kings early on, putting massive pressure on the hosts’ tryline. Eventually, Rabz Maxwane broke through the Kings’ defensive line, scoring his ninth try of the season for the Cheetahs. Tiaan Schoeman slotted the conversion for the visitors.
Another promising piece of play for the visitors ended when their captain, Tian Meyer, was shown yellow for a cynical foul at the ruck. This allowed the Kings to start placing their own pressure on the Cheetahs. However, despite both teams putting together some strong phases of play, neither side managed to convert their scoring opportunities into points in the first half. The Cheetahs remained ahead at halftime, leading 0-7 over the hosts.
Immediately after the second half kicked off, the Kings showed their intent to come back into the game. Placing immense pressure on the Cheetahs from the kickoff, the hosts eventually broke through the defenses of the Cheetahs, with Ntabeni Dukisa profiting from a beautiful inside pass. Masixole Banda added the extra two points, drawing level, and heightening the drama of the derby.
Almost immediately after conceding the try, the Cheetahs seemed to step up their intensity, camping on the hosts’ tryline. It did not take long for the massive Junior Pokomela to power his way over the tryline to regain the lead for the visitors. Schoeman furthered the lead with his boot. The Kings reduced this deficit quickly, however, through a penalty from Banda, taking the score to 10-14 in favour of the men from Bloemfontein.
The derby lived up to the hype, as both sides continued to up the tempo of the match as the second half went on. Finally, the visitors were awarded a penalty right in front of the posts, which Bernhard Janse van Rensburg slotted over easily. With just fifteen minutes to play, the Cheetahs took a seven-point lead.
The Kings were given one final lifeline, with just seven minutes left on the clock, when the Cheetahs gave away a penalty try. Luan de Bruin gave away the penalty and yellow card for being offside at the maul, and the Kings drew level yet again.
As the clock counted down to full time, both teams continued to hunt for the vital final score of the game. As the Cheetahs rumbled towards the hosts’ tryline, tensions rose around the stadium. Four minutes after the final hooter had sounded, the Cheetahs were awarded a scrum just five meters out. After some nerve-racking play, De Bruin managed to crash over for the try. Louis Fouche converted, and the Cheetahs kept their clean sheet against the Kings in the Pro14. Full time, Kings 17-24.
Tries: Ntabeni Dukisa, Penalty Try
Conversions: Masixole Banda
Penalties: Masixole Banda
Tries: Rabz Maxwane, Junior Pokomela, Luan de Bruin
Conversions: Tiaan Schoeman x2, Louis Fouche
Penalties: Janse van Rensburg
Yellow cards: Tian Meyer, Luan de Bruin