Rugby 17.5.2017 03:39 pm

The Super Rugby years that could haunt the Cheetahs

The Cheetahs have a history of not making full use of their opportunities. Photo: Duif du Toit/Gallo Images.

The Cheetahs have a history of not making full use of their opportunities. Photo: Duif du Toit/Gallo Images.

If historic results determine relegation, they could’ve breathed far easier if they took their chances in these four campaigns.

By now, most rugby fans know the decision on which two South African sides will be cut from Super Rugby won’t be based just on historic results.

In fact, given all the threats of legal action, there’s doubt it might even happen.

However, the Cheetahs’ history in the tournament – since they were included in 2006 – is an interesting one.

Perhaps their results point to them punching above their weight yet upon closer inspection, the franchise missed numerous opportunities to finish consistently in the top 10.

And if historic results do play a part in the Cheetahs’ relegation, they’ll kick themselves over these four campaigns.

2006:

Actual finish: Played 13 Won 5 Lost 8 27 points (10th)

Theoretical finish: Played 13 Won 8 Lost 4 39 points (4th)

By all accounts, the Cheetahs surprised most pundits in their first year.

A 10th place finish was hardly a disgrace given the reservations over Rassie Erasmus’ squad and wins in Durban and Cape Town were highlights.

However, some of their defeats weren’t brave performances – they were lost opportunities, especially at home.

They only needed a converted try to reverse a 12-17 defeat to the Highlanders and poor tackling saw them fall short 32-33 against the Chiefs overseas.

The Cheetahs threw away a home win over the Blues (33-34) through poor goal-kicking – only one of their five tries were converted – and produced a shocking performance to lose 14-16 to the meek Force.

2008:

Actual finish: Played 13 Won 1 Lost 12 13 points (13th)

Theoretical finish: Played 13 Won 6 Lost 7 31 points (10th)

On paper, this was a depressing season for the central franchise but they only had themselves to blame.

The opening two weekends brought two defeats by one point – 22-23 against the Lions and 15-16 against the Force – at home.

That’s a cardinal sin in this tournament.

On their trip to Australasia, the Cheetahs could’ve snatched a win over a vulnerable Chiefs (20-22) and only needed another converted try to surprise the Brumbies in Canberra (23-29).

Despite scoring four tries, indiscipline cost them another home defeat, by 28-31, against the Highlanders.

2011:

Actual finish: Played 16 Won 5 Lost 11 40 points (11th)

Theoretical finish: Played 16 Won 12 Lost 4 49 points (8th)

The Cheetahs emerged with much credit from this campaign, impressing with their skill on the attack and the emergence of a young flyhalf in Sias Ebersohn.

It attested to the hidden quality within the squad and should’ve translated into better results.

They missed a golden opportunity to surprise the defending champions the Bulls at home (23-25) in the first game of the season.

Gritty attacking play almost saw them beat the Highlanders abroad (21-24) but again they messed up at home.

Poor discipline saw the lowly (at that stage) Lions steal a 25-20 win; careless defending was exploited by the Hurricanes (47-50) and a 18-23 loss to the Sharks could’ve been reversed.

2012:

Actual finish: Played 16 Won 5 Lost 11 38 points (10th)

Theoretical finish: Played 16 Won 10 Lost 6 44 points (9th)

The Cheetahs’ campaign kicked off on a sour note as they conceded a massive 9 penalties, gleefully booted over by Elton Jantjies as the Lions squeeked home 27-25.

A shocking refereeing decision cost them a certain win in Canberra over the Brumbies (23-24) but their home form cost them once again.

Poor defending saw them lose 33-39 to the Chiefs and a shocking kicking display by Ebersohn (including a miss right in front) led to a 33-36 loss to the Highlanders.

A 14-16 defeat at Newlands also should’ve been translated into a rare awat win as the Cheetahs dominated.

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