Cheetahs finish strongly to climb off bottom
Central Cheetahs player Cornal Hendricks runs with the ball at Eden Park in Auckland on March 22, 2014 - by Michael Bradley
A five-try bonus-point home triumph for the Cheetahs lifted them off the bottom of the table -- a position now occupied by fellow South Africans, the Stormers.
Success ended a seven-match winless run by the Bloemfontein franchise while their Cape Town opponents lost for the seventh time in nine outings.
Each side had spells of superiority in a lively match at chilly Free State Stadium and the Cheetahs were clinging to a 23-15 lead with nine minutes left.
Stormers were deep in opposition territory and threatening to score when they surrendered possession and a Hendricks chip-and-chase sent him clear to dot down far out.
Erratic goal-kicker and fly-half Elgar Watts converted to give the 2013 play-off qualifiers a 15-point advantage that was extended when Nyakane barged over.
Centre and skipper Jean de Villiers scored a late consolation try for the visitors which replacement Kurt Coleman converted.
Another Stormers' try would have delivered two bonus points, but Coleman misjudged a pass and Cheetahs flanker Heinrich Brussow booted the ball into touch and the final whistle sounded.
"The team were more patient tonight, building attacks phase by phase," said Cheetahs skipper and hooker Adriaan Strauss.
"We kept the ball in hand, made the hard yards, and cleaned out quicker at the rucks."
De Villiers said; "We spent too much time in our half, made a lot of mistakes, and conceded too many turnovers.
"There were also too many missed tackles and we were outplayed at times. The struggle to improve continues."
Full-back Hennie Daniller, centre Rayno Benjamin, left-wing Hennie le Roux, wing Hendricks and prop Nyakane scored a try each for the Cheetahs.
Watts had an off-day with his goal kicking, managing just two conversions and two penalties from eight pots at the posts.
Flanker Nizaam Carr, débutant left-wing Devon Williams and Springboks skipper De Villiers claimed a try each for the Stormers.
Fly-half Peter Grant battled as a goal-kicker, succeeding with one conversion and one penalty and fluffing two other attempts. The Coleman conversion completed the Province total.
Stormers built an early 10-point advantage only to turn over 20-10 behind as the opportunist Cheetahs ran in three tries.
A Williams try after a brilliant De Villiers break just past the hour cut the deficit to eight points before the Cheetahs survived sustained pressure and regained the initiative.