EPCR WEEK 2: Cheetahs Top Pool 1 in EPCR Challenge Cup
Written by Neo Molefi on December 18, 2023
Written By: Karabo Peter
Week two of the European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) Challenge Cup wrapped up with Free State Cheetahs topping Pool 1 after a grueling encounter against the Sharks at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein on Sunday. Despite the effort from the Durban based side, it was not enough as Cohen Jasper slotted a final try to edge past the visitors with a 32-29 victory.
The Cheetahs opened the scoring in the first half as hooker Marnus van der Merwe crossed the line, however Etzebeth responded within minutes, with Curwin Bosch’s conversion levelling the scores. Veteran Ruan Pienaar was on hand with the conversations, ensuring that the home side earn extra points.
Gideon van der Merwe broke the deadlock through a try and taking the Cheetahs into halftime with the lead.
The veteran scrum-half kicked another penalty four minutes after the interval pushing the Cheetahs further ahead. However, minutes later Rugby World Cup winner, Grant Williams managed to break through the Cheetahs’ defense line after 54 minutes for a try. Curwin Bosch added extras and a penalty to bring his side in the lead for the first time.
Daniel Marteens and Makazole Mapimpi traded tries around the one-hour mark, with both kickers nailing their conversations.
The Springbok-laden Sharks’ hopes of a victory were crushed by Cohen Jasper’s 74th minute try, ending the game with 32-29 for the home side.
“The team having played two competitions you see different strategies. I guess for us its really around me being a new coach here and what I want to work out, the strengths and weakness of the players. And we also want to be successful obviously. We target to do well in this competition. It might change after today. For us we want to win all the time but right now we are struggling to win away and that’s pretty disappointing,” said Sharks coach, John Plumtree.
“Clearly we play some really good rugby at home. We just haven’t been clinical enough and mainly set pieces we’ve functions pretty well. You already under pressure, we either building pressure releasing pressure with our set pieces and that hasn’t functioned away from home. It didn’t function with the Bulls and it didn’t function here. So that is a part of our game we haven’t gotten right yet.”