05/01/2020 – SA PRO14 sides stumble in New Year’s return to action

Both South African PRO14 sides stumbled as they returned to New Years action in PRO14 Rugby, as the Toyota Cheetahs came unstuck in Parma against Italian side Zebre and the Isuzu Southern Kings were on the receiving end of a nine-try loss to Scottish side Edinburgh.
The Kings game will be remembered though for the fact they were reduced to 12 men at a stage for the contest, and after receiving a red card in the first half played well under the circumstances. However, the numerical disadvantage eventually caught up to them as they lost 61-13 in the Scottish capital.
The Kings scored first through Erich Cronje but then disaster struck when prop Pieter Scholtz was carded when a hand-off connected with the throat of tackler John Barclay, warranting a red card. In the second half they were further reduced to 13 when Dejay Terblanche was concussed and then to 12 when Ashton Fortuin was yellow carded, making any attempt at a close scoreline impossible.
Coach Robbie Kempson was still pleased with the performance, although he noted the numerical disadvantage killed off any chance his side had.
“We did exceptionally well in the first 50 minutes with 14 men, but the wheels came off when we had uncontested scrums. Being down to 13 and then down to 12, against one of the best sides in the competition, you are always going to be on the back-end of a hiding,” Kempson said.
Despite this, he was positive about the strides his side had taken after a month off.
“In particular in the first half when we were down to 14, we managed to keep Edinburgh very close. We had one opportunity in the second half to score a try and unfortunately we didn’t take that. If we had taken that it would have brought things a little closer for the players.
“But we have come on leaps and bounds from where we were. Today’s game was an anomaly, you are never going to beat any side with 12 men on the park at any stage. Certainly the way this team has grown in the past six months has been impressive. The coaches we have brought in have made a difference to the side and there is certainly a belief in this team that we can take another step forward despite today’s unfortunate result.”
In Parma, Toyota Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie was a frustrated man as his side looked rusty and out-of-sorts as they slipped to a bonus-point 41-13 defeat at the hands of Zebre.
While it was Zebre’s second win of the competition, Fourie felt his side were way below par and warned they needed to find their form again if they were to remain in contention for the playoffs. The Cheetahs slipped to fourth in their conference, three points behind Glasgow Warriors, but with two games in hand.
“We are very disappointed in the performance. It really wasn’t good in any way and there isn’t one aspect of the game that I can feel that we were on par,” Fourie said.
“We made a lot of mistakes on attack, defended poorly and gave away a lot of momentum at key times. We lost a few lineouts as well. It was a very frustrating evening for all of us.
“We will have to get ourselves right quickly when we are back in Bloemfontein as we have two important games against the Kings that we need to win. We will need to play some proper rugby again to be ready for the challenges that lie ahead of us.
“We will take it on the chin, but it isn’t a nice feeling as we are very disappointed in ourselves.”
In other PRO14 action defending champions Leinster continued their unbeaten run with a massive 54-7 win over Connacht while Edinburgh topped conference B after Munster fell 38-17 to Ulster on Friday night.
The Scarletts beat Cardiff Blues 16-14 in a close game while Dragons outlasted the Ospreys 25-18 in the other Welsh derby. Glasgow Warriors beat Benetton 38-19 in their match on Saturday.
Edinburgh - Tries: Michael Willemse, Duhan van der Merwe, Matt Scott, James Johnstone, Eroni Saul, Dave Cherry, Charlie Shiel and Mark Bennett; Penalty try.  Conversions: Jaco van der Walt (7).
Isuzu Southern Kings 13 - Tries: Erich Cronje and JT Jackson; Conversion: JT Jackson.
Zebre – tries:  Charlie Walker (2), Johan Meyer, Josh Renton, Giulio Bisegni. Conversions: Carlo Canna (5). Penalties: Canna (2)
Toyota Cheetahs – tries: Wilmar Arnauldi, Tian Meyer. Penalty: George Whitehead