Toyota Free State Cheetahs vs. Xerox Golden Lions
Venue: Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein
Date: Saturday, September 7, 2019
The Cheetahs come into this game as the No. 1 team on the log and they get to play at home. They dismantled the Sharks a week ago, pouring on the points late in the game as they raced out to a 51-30 win over their Durban based rivals.
It was a weird game as the Cheetahs, a team that totaled 22 points in topping the log, just couldn’t seem to get anything going in the first half against a resolute Sharks defense. The Cheetahs strength all year has been their attacking rugby and they finally found their form after the break. They turned a 23-11 deficit into a 21-point win, sending out a clear message that they want to win this competition.
The Golden Lions took second place on the log after they pipped the Griquas by one point in Round 7 to push the Kimberley side to third. This proved to be an important result as it changed the venue of the semi-final to Johannesburg, an advantage that the Golden Lions took full advantage of as they beat the Northern Cape side 34-19.
The two sides met earlier this season at Toyota Stadium where the Golden Lions won the match 24-22. This was one of just two defeats on the season for the Cheetahs and the result gives this rematch a little extra spice.
The Cheetahs are the heavy favourites to win this game but they must start better to do win the trophy on home soil. They are facing a team in the Lions who are equally good in the closing stages of games, so their ability to run down a deficit – as they did against both Western Province and the Sharks – will be much diminished here.
The Cheetahs will look to again attack off a scrum that was forged in the Pro14 this season. Hooker Joseph Dweba is a key player for the Cheetahs, while prop Ox Nche is another who can get around the park and cause problems with his skills in the loose.
The Lions will be very happy with their own momentum heading into this final. They may have survived a scare or two against the Griquas in Kimberley, but they looked very good last weekend against the same team. This is a young squad with a number of x-factor individuals who have the ability to turn a game on its head with a moment of brilliance.
Playing away from home certainly makes the task at hand more difficult for the Lions. They will need their experienced players, the likes of Springboks’ World Cup standby lock Marvin Orie – to stand up and be counted against the Cheetahs pack. Also, look for hard-running No. 8 Hacjivah Dayimani to make an impact from the back of the scrum with his ball carrying.
The Cheetahs are hard to look past as favourites because their ability to score points this season has been better than anyone else in the competition. The Golden Lions will have to play a defense-first game, looking to control space and have outstanding line speed to shut down the angles that the Cheetahs love to exploit in their attack.
This approach will keep it close for a spell, but the Cheetahs will pull away to win with late scores. Look for the home side to win by 11-20 points at 3.00 with BetXChange.