While the Isuzu Southern Kings will be playing for pride in their eight remaining Guinness PRO14 pool matches, the heat will be on for the Toyota Cheetahs, whose playoff fate will be decided by a series of home matches as the round-robin stages reaches the business end of the competition.
A series of wasted opportunities and costly errors again left the teams on the wrong side of the scoreboard this past weekend, with the Toyota Cheetahs going down 13-10 against the Dragons in Newport (click here for the match report), while the Isuzu Southern Kings suffered a 29-19 defeat against Connacht in Port Elizabeth (the match report is available here).
The defeat for the Free Staters saw them remain in fourth place in the Conference A log – two points behind the Glasgow Warriors, who are expected to be their main contenders for a playoff spot.
Fortunately for the Toyota Cheetahs, seven of their remaining eight matches will be played in South Africa, with six of them being at home in Bloemfontein.
Toyota Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie was disappointed that his team allowed a 10-0 lead to slip against the Dragons, and said they needed to be further ahead to challenge for the victory.
“We didn’t get enough points on the board in the first half when the wind behind us was unbelievably strong,” said Fourie.
“Being 10 points ahead wasn’t good enough, and we needed to take our chances. Unfortunately some passes were dropped and penalties given away, and it cost us.
“It was a big disappointment, but it is what it is and we are now just going to have to make the most of having six games at home.”
Isuzu Southern Kings coach Robbie Kempson expressed his frustration with their inability to capitalise on the numerical advantage they had after Connacht replacement winger Peter Robb received a red card in the 15th minute for making contact with Howard Mnisi’s neck while carrying the ball up-field.
The home side managed to fight back from 14-0 down to level the scores at 14-14 when the visitors were down to 13 men after their first yellow card, but this was not enough as Connacht charged on to win 29-19.
“We had a plan, and we have the best attack coach in world rugby in my opinion assisting us in Swys de Bruin, but then we butcher four scoring opportunities in the first half and you can’t do that and expect to win,” said Kempson.
“Yes, they had a red card and all of that, but if you butcher four opportunities, that is potentially 28 points.”
Kempson added: “The main message sent out once Connacht had lost a player to a red card was to keep the ball at all costs.
“Rather than loosening the game up we wanted to tighten it to strictly step into line with the game plan we had in place for this particular game, and we didn’t do that.”
The Toyota Cheetahs and Isuzu Southern Kings will enjoy some time off before returning to action in an exciting spell of three home matches from Saturday, 21 March